HAWTHORN great Don Scott enjoys a warm, content feeling every time Grand Final day rolls around.
It’s little wonder, for the occasion evokes fond memories of his three premiership triumphs with the Hawks during the 1970s.
Earlier this month, Scott, who turned 70 this week, had the chance to share a special memory from Grand Final day in 2011. Although the Hawks weren’t playing (Geelong and Collingwood played off with the Cats prevailing), it’s what happened much earlier in the day that left the charismatic Scott almost lost for words.
Scott was at home in Skye in Melbourne’s outer south-east when he received an unexpected phone call from his former coach John Kennedy.
As Hawthorn coach from 1960-63 and 1967-76, Kennedy always put the team ahead of individuals and rarely, if ever, handed a player any praise.
But that morning – some 40 years after the fact – Kennedy phoned Scott to congratulate him on his performance in Hawthorn’s hard-fought Grand Final win over St Kilda.
The legendary Hawks mentor felt compelled to thank Scott for his ruck contribution and strong leadership after watching a replay of the 1971 win against the Saints at the MCG.
"Apparently, he had had trouble sleeping on the Friday night and a replay of the 1971 Grand Final was on the television when he turned it on. It was the first time he had ever seen a replay of the game," Scott said.
"He waited until the morning and rang to tell me he thought I had played very well. It was certainly a pleasant shock to get on Grand Final day, even if it was a bit late!"
Kennedy's rare player plaudits were recalled after the revered coach made a short opening speech at Scott's early 70th birthday lunch, attended by 60 people including son Doug and his friends and ‘foes’ in a private function room at, fittingly, a Hawthorn hotel.
Among the guests were 14 of the 20 players from the 1971 premiership team, eager to hear one more address from their beloved coach, who turns 89 next week.
In what predictably became a roast for Scott, teammates David Parkin, John Hendrie and Ray Wilson, Richmond's 1980 premiership coach Tony Jewell and former ruck foe, Geelong great Sam Newman, retold various stories of the eccentric ruckman's exploits on and off the field.
The birthday boy was delighted but not surprised with the roll-up of his 1971 Grand Final teammates – Parkin, Hendrie and Wilson were joined by Kelvin Moore, Les Hawken, Robert Day, Ian Bremner, Leon Rice, Geoff Angus, Bob Keddie, Alan Martello, Kevin Heath, Peter Hudson and Bruce Stevenson.
"Camaraderie has always been a powerful force at Hawthorn. We weren't one of the fashionable clubs in those days, like Carlton, Collingwood or Richmond, but we stuck together," Scott said.
"We even played in cricket and basketball teams in the off-season. And the bond is stronger than ever."
Michael Tuck, Norm Goss and Alle de Wolde, members of other Hawthorn premiership teams in the 1970s, and Adelaide-based Bohdan Jaworskyj, who played in the Hawks' 1975 Grand Final team, joined teammates for the birthday bash, along with St Kilda Brownlow medallist Ross Smith, top Saints defender Gary Colling, another Brownlow Medal winner Bernie Quinlan, Collingwood champion goalkicker Peter McKenna and Carlton's premiership big man David McKay.
A few days after the birthday function, the question of the Norm Smith Medal came up. Official AFL records show Scott was named Hawthorn's best player in the seven-point win against the Saints in the 1971 Grand Final, but the Norm Smith Medal would not be introduced for another eight years.
"It was about the team, not some individual award," bellowed Scott when asked if he would have been a worthy winner of the best-on-ground medal.
His old coach would have responded typically: with a knowing chuckle.