To Burgoyne, the roar of the fans was what he expected to miss the most as the curtain dropped on a 407-game career without a crowd in the ground to witness it. His comment was ironic because, for once, it was the crowd at home watching the moment on television who felt their absence even more than the combatants.
They knew in their hearts this was an occasion robbed of the joyful atmosphere and standing ovations that normally accompany the end of the home-and-away season.
There was no chance for a roar every time Burgoyne or Astbury touched the ball. No chance for a standing ovation whenever Clarkson or Houli appeared on the big screen. No rivalry between supporters. No respect from fans for opposition players as the trio would have received.
There was not much waving or theatrical flourishes with the ball, the only concession to the event being Clarkson’s decision to send Burgoyne forward for a final goal when the game looked won, a call he would probably rue if he was coaching the Hawks next season.
There was no fun day at the footy for the fans, only tears welling up in lounge rooms across the country for what has been and what has been lost.
Thankfully, the men of the moment didn’t dwell on that fact, all expressing gratitude at what the game had added to their lives and the friendships they derived as a result. It made the moment – a significant one for the Hawks in particular – poignant.
“Today was a celebration regardless of the result,” Astbury said.
Clarkson, as is his style, gatecrashed Hardwick’s media conference to share his final public moment as Hawthorn coach in front of the cameras with his frenemy and lifelong friend.
The veteran coach joked he was reliving World of Sport‘s famous coach’s corner segment by sitting alongside Hardwick as he wished aloud that Collingwood great Lou Richards could present the pair with Four’N Twenty pies and Bertocchi ham as he used to do when the show was a Sunday staple in Victorian homes.
As unusual as the moment was, it reflected Clarkson’s deep, unabiding love for every aspect of the game and its origins as well as his hope that friendships can endure beyond football, past the relentless lengths he will go to win.
Fun combined with discipline has always been the Clarkson way as he created a sense of loyalty few other coaches match, practising the beliefs he espoused at times many others would have wavered.
“Without ‘Clarko’, I wouldn’t have got into coaching,” Hardwick said.
The smile stayed on Clarkson’s face as he ribbed the triple premiership Tiger about his lack of adventure and his inexperience when he started as an assistant alongside Clarkson at Hawthorn.
Clarkson will pass on the baton to Sam Mitchell as Burgoyne will to another Hawk and the Tiger pair will to those who follow them.
The football cycle will go on, after another year like no other is celebrated with a sad rather than a mad Monday.