Why I love sirens — Part 1
When I wrote the story of Jack going through the Hawthorn banner, I mentioned his obsession with sirens. An AFL timekeeper read that story, and set himself on a mission.
I asked Jack what he wanted this post to be called, and he said ‘Why I love sirens’. He loves a Michael Wagner and Tom Jellett picture book called ‘Why I love footy’, and it seems he’s going in that direction, creatively.
For those of you who read my first post about Jack as Hawthorn junior mascot, you might be thinking, hang on, doesn’t he hate sirens? Wasn’t the best part of a week before that thrilling banner expedition piloted by Dylan Moore spent discussing siren decibel levels as experienced at banner level, vis a vis up in stands?
Well readers, you can officially update Jack’s relationship status when it comes to sirens to ‘it’s complicated’. He’s still intimidated by the volume. He still hates the sense of a countdown to aural armageddon and the fact we know the time left, and we can tell him how long, and so why not ask us to tell him, say every thirty seconds or so?
‘Dad how long left? Dad is it long to go in the quarter? Dad do I need my ear mufflers? Dad, I want my ear mufflers!’
But since the Hawthorn-Richmond game, when he and his sister and grandpa sat next to the timekeeper’s booth, he’s been obsessed with the idea that somebody blows the siren. Somebody who knows even more about when the siren is going to blow than us. Someone who has, literally, his finger on the button.
Unbelievably, in the days after that post, the owner of that finger reaches out to me. A timekeeper by the name of Michael Sexton sends me a direct message on Twitter.
“Hi Tony, I just read your story about your son. I am actually an AFL timekeeper and did the Hawthorn v Collingwood game and noticed Jack being wheeled onto the ground. I am glad he had such a great day. I am doing the Hawks game in Round 18 and would be happy to try and organise for him to come in and press the sirens (probably as the umpires enter the field) PS – we had our run ins over time on the field, as I umpired you many times. Regards, Michael.”
What a message to receive! And what does he mean by ‘run ins’? Was it Michael Sexton who failed to pay that holding free kick in the goal square against Donald MacDonald out at Werribee in 1993? I’m curious to know, but also aware that this quite lovely note is only glancingly about me.
‘Hi Michael, that’s incredible! Seriously, this might be the most exciting part yet! I’m sure I’ll remember your face if you did umpiring. VAFA or VFL?”
We establish that Michael umpired me in AFL under 19s, AFL reserves and VFL. It probably was him with Donald MacDonald. In his next messages, Michael explains how Jack might get his siren moment. He says he’ll have to check with his bosses. He says he’ll send photos of the steps we need to negotiate. Michael delivers on all of this. Things are falling into place.
‘Hi Tony, I spoke to the guys in the Control Room today and they are happy for it to go ahead. They will run it past their boss and I will do the same with mine.’
At this point, I tell Jack that there is a chance he’ll get to blow the siren at Marvel Stadium.
‘Will it be the final siren?’ he asks.
‘No it’d be the one to signal the umpires coming onto the ground.’
‘Will it be a loud siren?’
‘I think quieter in the timekeepers’ booth, because they are behind glass.’
‘Will I push a button to blow the siren?
‘Yes, you’ll push a button, I can help you if you need me to.’
‘Will Michael Sexton need me to help blow the siren?’
‘I think he can do it himself, but yes he’s inviting you to help’.
‘I can help Michael Sexton if he needs me to. Does Michael Sexton need me to blow the final siren?’
And so we go round. Excitement mounts. Possibly too much excitement given we haven’t received the AFL’s toot of approval. Then, bad news.
‘Hi Tony , unfortunately the AFL have knocked back my request. They have said that the Match Day Restricted Areas have been locked down since the start of the pandemic and they still have Covid protocols overplayed to their specialist staff who work in these areas. I’m really sorry to get Jack’s hopes up. I never gave any consideration to the AFL pulling the Covid card. I’m not sure what else I can do. Once again, I’m really sorry.’
I thank Michael for all his efforts on this. I explain that Jack and Dad hadn’t been allowed in the Hawthorn rooms, the Covid protocols had kicked in then too. I then break the news to Jack that he can’t blow the siren, but that it might happen one day, when Covid is over. Jack takes the news reasonably well, possibly because deep down he was nervous about blowing the siren anyway.
‘Will Michael Sexton have to blow the siren without me?’ he asks.
“Yes he will Jack. Because of Covid.’
‘Will it be the final siren that Michael Sexton blows?’
‘It will be all sirens, Jack.’
‘Will it be the siren that blows when the umpires come onto the ground?’
‘Yes, all sirens Jack.’
‘Will I hear the sirens when Michael Sexton blows them?’
‘If we go, Jack, you will.’
‘Will they be loud?’
And so we go round. A day or so later, my phone rings. It is Michael, and he’s come up with an idea. He tells me that the adjacent box at Marvel Stadium is operated by Subway, and that if you sit in a particular seat, you are directly beside the timekeepers, and their button. ‘Kids whack on the glass all the time,’ he says. ‘You get a really great view of what we’re doing’. He then tells me that he’s emailed the CEO of Subway, and the request has filtered down, and Jack has tickets to the Subway box for the round 20 game! To watch the siren!
At this point I’m awestruck by this man’s kindness, and his tenacity. Look maybe it wasn’t even a free kick when Donald MacDonald blatantly pulled me out of the marking contest? We gratefully accept the offer of the Subway box. Michael isn’t rostered for the night, but he plans to come along to meet us and talk to Jack. Then, hooray, he texts to say that he’s swung the roster so that he’ll be timekeeping! Then, just last Wednesday:
“Hi Tony, just letting you know that I have tested positive to Covid so unfortunately will not be there on Saturday. Whoever is taking my spot, I’ll let them know about Jack and that he’ll be showing a great interest in what they are doing.”
Bloody hell. Bloody Covid.
End of part 1. I’ll post the second instalment about Jack’s incredible day in the Subway box, and (spoiler alert) how he did end up blowing a siren this weekend.
Read Part 2 of Why I Iove sirens which has now been published.
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This is just such a great and incredible story - thanks Tony (and Jack, and Michael and not so much Donald)
What a great story Tony! Part 1 down. Heading to Part 2. Great photos from the ground. Cheers Richard