ME AND MY PA­TRON SAINT

FOR­MER BENALLA SAINT IS OVER­WHELMED BY GESTURE

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page -

“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 ❞

Photo: Michael Klein, Her­ald Sun

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.

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