It ended in pain, but East Wagga-Kooringal’s bid to break a 33-year premiership drought landed the club a small role in the excitement of the AFL grand final.
The Hawks already had more than a passing interest in the biggest game of the year, with former players Matt Suckling and Isaac Smith playing for Hawthorn.
Now their tilt at an elusive Farrer League premiership is profiled over six pages in the league’s official publication, the grand final Record.
“I was pretty surprised and impressed, to be honest,” Hawks president Rob Richards said.
“I was expecting two pages and to see six, I was really rapt.
“It’s really pleasing that they’re exposing our club and country footy to the wider audience, particularly the metropolitan audience.”
AFL reporter Adam McNicol travelled to Wagga for the Robertson Oval decider spending the day with Hawks officials and past players.
“Bush footy is my number one passion and I wanted to write a story about a grand final that speaks for all the other grand finals underneath the AFL,” McNicol said.
McNicol, who wrote the biography of Ungarie’s famous Daniher brothers, had been searching for a team enduring its own search for premiership glory but wanted a club that would resonate nationally.
“I had heard of East Wagga through the Matty Suckling connection but I was just hunting around for teams that hadn’t won one for a while and had some connections to the AFL,” he said.
“Gavin McMahon coaching has a Swans connection, and then I found out Greg Smith had played there, the ‘Bionic Man’.”
As well as spending time with McMahon and the players beforehand, the reporter watched the game with Hawks legends Jack Keating and Ken Reynolds who have both been involved with the club for decades.
All that went wrong was the result, with The Rock-Yerong Creek snatching victory in the last seven minutes.
“They were pretty devastated… ’82 – it’s a long time now,” McNicol said.
With the wounds of defeat still raw, reliving a grand final that got away isn’t all that enjoyable but the Hawks were proud to be featured in the article, aptly titled ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’.
“Obviously we would’ve preferred if it was a different story but it read well and it was a true reflection of the day and a good snapshot of our history,” Richards said.
“We’re still honoured and privileged that Adam contacted us to write the story about our club and the feedback has been really positive.”
The AFL expects to sell around 80,000 copies of the Record.
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