DON SCOTT is a Legend of the Hawthorn Football Club. Officially and finally.
And in keeping with his complicated relationship with the club he served with such distinction, there was nothing straightforward about his induction.
It came via a simple announcement from club president Jeff Kennett at Tuesday evening’s annual general meeting that was held virtually. Scott, to the surprise of nobody that knows him, declined to speak, or even make an appearance over Zoom.
But at least he accepted the highest accolade there is at Hawthorn and will be formally celebrated at a club function "of his choosing" sometime next year.
Two years ago, he declined an invitation from Kennett to attend the AGM to receive the honour and while he kept his silence as to why, friends say he was miffed to ask to appear at the AGM whereas the eight previous Legends – John Kennedy Snr, Graham Arthur, Leigh Matthews, Michael Tuck, Jason Dunstall, David Parkin, Peter Knights and Peter Hudson – were all feted at celebratory dinners.
Irrespective of the ham-fisted way it happened (an all-too-common occurrence at Hawthorn of late), Scott’s contribution to the club absolutely warrants Legend status.
Through 302 games between 1967 and 1981, he established himself as Hawthorn’s greatest ever ruckman. He is the No.1 ruckman in the Hawks' Team of the Century and there is a considerable margin between him and the next best in the club's history.
Scott stood at just 190cm, which in modern football would make him a tall midfielder, but what he lacked in height he made up with his leap, athleticism and a flint-hard attitude to every contest. He was a warrior and before long a formidable leader. It was no coincidence that he played well in each of his three winning Grand Finals, in 1971, 1976 and 1978.
At three-quarter time of the 1971 Grand Final, the Hawks trailed by 20 points and all seemed lost. Coach Kennedy implored the team to at least go down fighting. As the huddle broke up, Scott gathered the team together and said words to the effect of, "Stuff that, we’re going to win!" And with Scott taking charge in the ruck, Hawthorn kicked seven goals in the final quarter to win by seven points.
He was the perfect recipient of the No.23 jumper given he played in a similar fashion to John Peck, who wore it before him. And he set the template for the likes of Dermott Brereton and Lance Franklin to follow.
At the same time as he was one of the toughest players on the field, he was a flamboyant figure off it. He ran a jeans store in Camberwell and always looked the part. He sported a man bag at a time when they were regarded as not something that 'real men' would carry. He was also president of the players association when it was regarded by the League as an outside and perhaps even hostile organisation.
He took over the Hawthorn captaincy in 1975 once Peter Crimmins became ill with cancer. For the next seven seasons, the Hawthorn following division named nearly every Thursday night was Scott, Tuck and Matthews. It wasn’t just the best in the game at the time, it was arguably the finest in the game’s history and the partnership was made all the more remarkable given that the three players were not particularly close off the field. "I regard us as acquaintances and teammates," Matthews told the AFL Record in a 2018 interview.
Scott’s love-hate relationship with the club began in the summer of 1981. Displeased with several developments, most notably David Parkin’s sacking as coach, he sought an open clearance from the club. In the end he couldn’t bring himself to leave and instead played out an unhappy final season, barely speaking to any of his teammates or coaches.
Scott’s playing career alone probably ensured him Legend status at Hawthorn, but it was the events of 1996 that made sure of it. He had largely kept his distance from the club since his retirement, having forged a fine career as a Channel Seven commentator and hard-hitting newspaper columnist.
But he wasn’t comfortable with the way the club was being cornered into a merger with Melbourne, so he became the face of Operation Payback, the grassroots movement that successfully averted the union with the Demons.
Ian Dicker was the numbers man, but Scott rallied the troops, with his famous "Velcro Hawk on a Melbourne guernsey" line during his fiery speech sending the 'no-vote' crowd at the merger meeting into a frenzy.
Scott joined the Hawthorn board afterwards, but he and Dicker later fell out, another example of his love of the club simultaneously testing his patience with it. He launched a rival ticket for the board late in 2004, but withdrew at the last moment, giving new coach Alastair Clarkson and his team the clean air they needed to change the club and move in a new direction.
He again threatened to make a run at the board in 2017, when Kennett was parachuted back into the presidency for his second stint, after the dual departures of president Richard Garvey and chief executive Tracey Gaudry, and angered several past players last year when he said the four Hawthorn premierships won between 1986 and 1991 were marred by secret bank accounts used to cheat the salary cap. Brereton labelled him an "idiot" in response.
Earlier this year Scott rebuked Kennett after he did not rule out Hawthorn relocating to Tasmania.
But while the relationship between Scott and the club has had its frosty moments, he remains a revered figure among older supporters and his teammates. When Scott turned 70 in late 2017, he was reportedly overwhelmed at how many of his former teammates attended the festivities and reached out with birthday wishes.
They and all Hawthorn people will celebrate that common sense has prevailed and various egos parked at the door as he finally gets his just reward from the club. But it wouldn’t be the Don Scott so many know and love without there having been a few twists and turns along the way.