Hart pumped up by big crowd and Aussie pride
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.