Hart pumped up by big crowd and Aussie pride

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - JESPER FJELDSTAD

BEN Hart can still vividly re­mem­ber Oc­to­ber 15, 1999, as he ven­tured out to his fa­mil­iar Foot­ball Park in Ade­laide’s western sub­urbs.

He was the only Crow in the Aus­tralian team, which in­cluded names such as Stephen Sil­vagni, Nathan Buck­ley, Shane Craw­ford, Ben Cousins, Ja­son Ak­er­ma­nis and Matthew Richard­son.

The only other Ade­laide­based player was Port Ade­laide’s Pe­ter Bur­goyne.

As such, Hart re­ceived a rous­ing wel­come be­fore one of the most packed crowds at West Lakes.

The of­fi­cial crowd fig­ure was 45,187 – those who were there swear there were even more peo­ple than that in at­ten­dance.

To Hart, al­ready a dual pre­mier­ship player, All-Aus­tralian and club best and fairest, the mo­ment stands out in a dec­o­rated ca­reer as one of his fond­est mem­o­ries.

“I re­mem­ber com­ing home and play­ing at Footy Park,” Hart told The Ad­ver­tiser.

“I think I was the only Crows player in the side for that game and the re­cep­tion I got that day made my hair stand up.

“It was just spine-tin­gling. I had an ab­so­lute ball.”

The game turned out to be a draw.

Hart had other mem­o­ries. There were times in the leadup games when he re­lieved Sil­vagni as a goal­keeper, which was a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge, and he loved play­ing along­side the rest of the game’s elite.

One high­light was to spend time with the late Jim Stynes, the Ir­ish-born Mel­bourne great who served both as a mentor and a tour guide in the se­ries in Ire­land in 1998.

“I got the op­por­tu­nity to play with Jimmy Stynes, which was bril­liant,” Hart re­called. “I loved do­ing that.

“Be­ing in his coun­try with him and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some of the things he showed us was awe­some. Then I got to play along­side Robert Har­vey and Stephen Sil­vagni and it was un­be­liev­able to see them in ac­tion as a team-mate of theirs.”

Hart, who re­turns as an as­sis­tant coach with the Crows for the 2018 sea­son, will keep a close eye on to­day’s match.

He reck­ons the hy­brid game has found a bet­ter level, with the on-field phys­i­cal­ity reined in to ac­cept­able lev­els of phys­i­cal­ity rather than bor­der­ing on thug­gery.

“Back in the early days, when it wasn’t frowned upon as much as it is now, Aus­tralia prob­a­bly went over the top a cou­ple of times,” Hart said. “Way back in the 1980s ... (but) you can’t af­ford for it to get too out of con­trol.

“It’s all right to be phys­i­cal if it’s in the na­ture of the game but go­ing out of your way to whack peo­ple is not on.

“That seems to have gone out of the game.

“They’ll be hard on the ball when they need to be but the punch­ing off the ball seems to have gone out. And I hope it stays out.”

GIV­ING HIS ALL: Aus­tralia’s Ben Hart drags down his Ir­ish op­po­nent dur­ing the 1999 In­ter­na­tional Rules se­ries.

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