ME AND MY PATRON SAINT
FORMER BENALLA SAINT IS OVERWHELMED BY GESTURE
“It was a really tough time for the club when Ken took over … but he made a big impact on the playing group and keeping them together at a tough time in our history.”
Football writer ANDREW JOHNSTON talked with one of Benalla football’s gun exports about a moment so unexpected in his fledgling career he was left speechless, overcome by the emotion — and the responsibility
AS IF football wasn’t serious enough – for Hawthorn’s Harry Morrison it just got seriously personal. So personal it has changed forever the way he will pull on his jumper before every game he plays for the Hawks for however long he is in the team.
He will now, he said solemnly, stop for a moment each time before he puts it on.
Because his jumper – and its number – is no longer just his; it is a big part of the Hawthorn story and in so many ways it belongs to the club’s army of followers.
The former Benalla Saint, drafted at pick 74 in 2016, played just one game in his first year.
But this year it was 21 games, he collected a Rising Star nomination and appeared to have cemented his place in the side.
He felt fantastic; he was living the dream, he really was part of the side. He even got included in the player group that walked Kokoda last month.
And then the earth shifted for the 20 year old.
Out of nowhere Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson sat him down and told him the club was bringing the number one jumper back after symbolically retiring it in 2011 because it rated its fans as the rightful number one.
Number one was also the jumper worn by the late Ken Judge Ken Judge, Morrison’s godfather. And Clarkson had just told him he wanted Morrison to have it.
“A lot of clubs at most levels don’t really think about them (numbers) that much,” Morrison told the Ensign.
“They’re just something that is given to a player, but to the player themselves the number can mean a great deal.
“For my club to go out of their way to give me a number that has so much meaning to me personally is very special.
“I was walking off after training not long ago when Clarko came up and put his arm around me,” he said.
“He told me the club was going to bring the number one jumper out of retirement, and he wanted me to wear it.”
Morrison didn’t say if he cried, but he was not afraid to admit he was seriously overcome by emotion. He said his phone call to Judge’s widow, Annette, was even more emotional.
“It blew me away, I was in shock but I was so happy when he told me. “It’s a huge honour.” Morrison’s mother Tanya worked with Annette in Melbourne and his father Darby and Judge also became strong friends.
“Our families have been pretty close since then, so Ken became my godfather.
“The older I got, the more of an impact Ken had on my life. When I was younger, I probably didn’t fully understand. But at 14, 15, 16 I started to really hear stories about what Ken was like as a player and that started to have a real impact on the way I play the game.”
Through his time in the Murray Bushrangers and with the Saints, Morrison began to develop into a strong outside mid heading into his draft year.
It was in January of that season, on his 58th birthday, that Judge died after a sixyear battle with cancer.
Within 10 months, Morrison was a Hawthorn player.
As he spent more time at his new home, stories about Judge became a regular part of the experience.
“There are still a lot of people who are at Hawthorn who were around when Ken was here, especially when he was coaching.
“It was a really tough time for the club when Ken took over, so he was a pretty important figure. He was a bit of a hardarse as a coach, but he made a big impact on the playing group and keeping them together at a tough time in our history.” Tough would be an understatement. The Hawks were in financial ruin and staring at a forced merger with Melbourne.
On the field 1995 would see the club miss the finals for the first time since 1982.
In 1996 Judge was handed a poisoned chalice – to transition Hawthorn from its golden age into a young team, with Judge’s job getting them through their development as a foundation for a brown and gold renaissance.
Win-loss aside, Judge would play a key role in shaping the Hawthorn culture as it entered a new millennium, and his legacy is still there in the success story the club is today.
And Morrison knows the culture of Hawthorn is also shaping who he is; that Judge is reaching out across time to continue influencing his game and his personal growth in a culture in which he is fast becoming embedded; most recently as one of 16 players and coaches to take on the Kokoda trail in November.
It was the fifth Hawthorn group under Clarkson’s watch to make the journey take on the trail, with the Hawthorn mentor believing it important for young players to learn about the sacrifices boys not much older than them made during some genuinely hard times.
For Morrison, the bonding experience would prove pivotal.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge for us,” he said.
“And it was huge achievement for us all; it was like having six or 12 months of bonding in the space of a few days.
He said for guys such as Chad Wingard and Jack Scrimshaw, who are new to the club, it was huge for them to get to be a part of it and to be close to the group.
“Walking under the arch at the end of day six, it was a pretty emotional time, but we did walk away feeling like we had done something really special.”
It’s a group that Morrison is feeling closer to every game and every training session.
“The more games I played in 2018, the more I have felt a part of our group and a part of the club,” he added.
“I was happy without being satisfied in 2018. To play more than 20 games was a bit above my own expectations, and I’m proud of that, but I also know I have so much more development to go through as a player.”
He doesn’t say it, he doesn’t have to; but his progress to date is testament to the role Judge has played in his life.
Now wearing that number means Judge will, on many levels, be there every time he pauses to contemplate the number and jumper before he pulls it over his head.
His godfather had nothing to do with his draft pick, with the resurrection of the number one or Clarkson’s decision to hand it to him.
But others must recognise some change in the momentum of Morrison.
In his own words he is “attacking” pre-season.
The team heads for camp in Mooloolaba tomorrow before a short Christmas break.
At the camp, throughout pre-season and when the 2019 competition begins; Morrison will be working even harder, proving to himself and the fans he is worthy of the honour.
You can’t help but suspect Judge may have already known that long before it ever crossed the young man’s mind.
❝ The more games I played in 2018, the more I have felt a part of our group and a part of the club. I was happy without being satisfied in 2018. To play more than 20 games was a bit above my own expectations, and I’m proud of that, but I also know I have so much more development to go through as a player ❞
NUMBER ONE: Harry Morrison with his jumper for the 2019 AFL season – it is the same number worn at the Hawks by his godfather, the late Ken Judge.
FORMATIVE YEARS: As a junior Harry Morrison was still dreaming of joining cousin and Brisbane Lions, now Port Adelaide, star Tom Rockliff in the AFL and (below) with team-mates Chris Welsh, left, and David Mennen, centre, after they were selected to join the Murray Bushrangers.