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THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE HAWK IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Whispering Jack

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In the opening act, the theatre goers witnessed an animal on stage. It was quite dead, having been spiked at close quarters by a garden fork. The animal was a bird, a Hawk to be exact but it could easily have been a Magpie or even a Dog; it’s passing was a metaphor for the end of the Norm Smith Curse that began in the prehistoric prime number year of 1964 when they last held the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo and Dawn Fraser purloined an Olympic Flag in the dead of night from the Imperial Palace. 

As Dawn explained in her autobiography, Below the Surface, “... finally they pulled the flag loose. ‘Quick,’ said one of them. ‘Cop this.’ I took the flag. ‘Go for your life,’ said the other. ‘The demons are coming.’”

The Demons were certainly coming. They won the premiership flag that year but soon after, it all went awry for them, for Dawn and for Norm.

Many years later, the Americans came up with a television series called the X-Files in which the star of the show Special Agent Scully predicted that it would take young children of the future blessed with mathematical powers, an understanding of prime numbers and a rectangular field to put an end to the curse and so it turned out last night.

They sat there near the forward pocket where monsters once ruled the earth, riveted to their bean bags, faces painted in red and blue colours, never once distracted by the acrobats, neon goalposts or the smoke machines. They were part of a now world record AFLX crowd of 22,585 fans, a small proportion of who even paid to get in to be part of history. Forget the Winter Olympics - we could never emulate the surprise appearance at the opening ceremony of Kim Jong Un’s sister and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers' Party of Korea. The stars of this show were the kids. 

They are the consumers, not of the future but of the present and the only way to get their collective attention spans away from their iPads is an action packed game that doesn’t invade their safe spaces and where you need just two kicks from kick-off to Zoop in the time it takes to recognise the opening riff of a Justin Bieber number.

The Demons were the big winners. They took home the blue AFLX Night Two Trophy - Australia’s equivalent of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. AFLX Night One doesn’t count after the Court of Arbitration in Sport ruled it ineligible due to the use of the illegal silver ball in Adelaide.

Firstly, the Dees knocked off the kids from Carlton, then they destroyed their ancient hoodoo against the Kangaroos who blundered by selecting a ten foot tall slow moving dinosaur to play in a game made for intergalactic space age swiftness (notwithstanding the obviously staged WWE-style rag dolling of TMacX) and finally, they atoned for the ignominious annihilation by the Hawks back in football’s stone age with a Grand Final triumph for the ages. The memory of that 1988 debacle (an event that coincidentally also unfolded in the middle of another Olympic Games - and who could ever forget the jaundice-eyed juiced up Ben Johnson killing it on the screen at the G in the 100 metres final?) was still in mind as the club song was sung and tears welled at the realisation of how fitting it was that Billy Stretch was in the team that finally brought home some silverware to Yarra Park. 

The name Craig Jennings was unknown to most of mankind just a few days ago but today, it’s bigger on the world scene than Karaoke. He’s the man who really broke the Norm Smith Curse in front of the kids as he coached the club to its first VFL/AFL premiership since 1964 (if you leave out the pre-season Ansett Cup of 1989 against Geelong - nobody knows what an Ansett is these days anyway). 

The Jennings strategy was obviously to work the prime numbers based on the theory of diminishing returns, to grind the opposition in a downwards mathematical progression. Hence, the scores of 82 (including 7 Zoopers) against Carlton, 70 (this time with 9 regulation goals) against North and finally just 56 points against Hawthorn which was enough to win the Big Blue X by that beautifully prime number of 10 points. The Dees worked those numbers with system, style and precision. They dominated their games and the result was never in doubt. They forked the Hawks and undoubtedly put an end to the Curse just as predicted by Scully in the X-Files so many years ago.

The Craig Jennings Medalist by unanimous acclaim was born-again mathematical genius Jake Melksham who was taken out of defence and transmogrified last year into a forward with a rapier-like boot that homed in on the Zooper zone with precision all night. He scored Melbourne’s first three Zooper goals of the evening against the Blues, notched another against the Roos and his fifth in the granny. Otherwise, he was always in the game, up forward, down back, marshaling the troops with class and skill.

There were plenty of other highlights, James Harmes’ physicality, some flashes of brilliance from Angus Brayshaw, skipper Neville Jetta’s control in defence, a very promising cameo from recruit goal sneak Bailey Fritsch, TMacX’s ability to find the goals, Corey Maynard’s strong attack on the footy, Josh Wagner’s improvement in defence, Tom Bugg’s in your face aggression (but get your disposal right please son) and AleX Neal-Bullen’s continued upward progression. 

And then there was TraX. This young lad Xtian Petracca is really something. He looked so impressive out there whether it was bullocking through packs, taking strong marks or winning the tip-off against the NBA size dinosaur. When the Summer Olympics roll around in Tokyo again in 2020, you can line him up in the Aussie basketball team with his old mate, Benjamin David Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers (and Dante Xum and Maynard and J Smith of course). Together they can take on the world and perhaps even knock off another flag from the Imperial Palace for the Demons.

Most Melbourne fans would have been euphoric with the outcome. The premiership was in the bag, the Norm Smith Curse put to bed for good and the mystery of the curious incident of the Hawk in the night-time solved. The only thing I couldn’t work out is how this tattoo of a Demon appeared on my ankle.

AFLX NIGHT TWO IN MELBOURNE 16 FEBRUARY 2018 - THE PRIME NUMBER SOLUTION 

GROUP 1

Melbourne 7.1.6.82 defeated Carlton 2.5.4.54

Goals: Melbourne

Zooper goals: Melksham 3, Bugg, T.McDonald, Petracca, Wagner 

Goals: Harmes

Goals: Carlton

Zooper goals: Lamb, Williamson

Goals: Dow, Lamb, O'Brien, Polson, Silvagni

North Melbourne 5.4.9.83 defeated Carlton 5.2.6.68

Melbourne 1.9.6.70 defeated North Melbourne 3.2.4.46

Goals: Melbourne

Zooper goals: Melksham

Goals: Fritsch 3, T.McDonald 2, Bugg, Harmes, Jetta, Melksham

Goals: North Melbourne 

Zooper goals: Hartung, Higgins, McDonald

Goals: Preuss, Zurhaar

GROUP 2

Hawthorn 3.6.7.73 defeated Essendon 3.3.6.54 

St. Kilda 2.5.2.52 defeated Essendon 2.2.5.37

Hawthorn 4.5.7.77 defeated St Kilda 2.5.5.55

GRAND FINAL

Melbourne 3.3.8.56 defeated Hawthorn 1.5.6.46

Goals: Melbourne

Zooper goals: Harmes, Melksham, Neal-Bullen

Goals: Bugg, T.McDonald, Neal-Bullen

Goals: Hawthorn

Zooper goals: Burton

Goals: O’Hanrahan 2, Ross 2, Burton

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