This month marks the 5 year anniversary of the day Andrew Shakespeare, a humble, small-town boy from the slums of Newcastle, became the toast of the nation.
And to think that, just a year before, the Buce player- whose name is now synonymous with memories of triumph and courage, almost didn’t make the team.
The young, starry-eyed youngster was barely a blip on the radar when he joined the Hawks in 2009 in the wake of the 2009 Buce League. His captain, Michael Read- often known at the time for being abusive and bullish to young players- decided to give Shakespeare a start, and he impressed. By the end of the season, he was known as a reliable and consistent player who was destined for big things.
But that wasn’t enough to make the 2009 Grand Final a guaranteed win- The Hawks were pitted up against their long-time rivals, ex-Quad Team powerhouses The Avalanches, who had finished the competition emphatically undefeated, and were on the road to steamrolling their way to victory against the Hawks.
The last matchup between the two had finished 12-0 in the Avalanches’ favour, and within the first 15 minutes of the final, a single point from Ashley Everson had put The Avalanches in front, with little sign of any turnaround in the game. Rumour has it, that before the game, Charlie Rogers and Ashley Everson intruded the Hawk’s dressing room and put poison in Andrew Shakespeare’s food. These claims have been unverified to this day.
Poisoned or not, Andrew wasn’t going to stand up to any bully. It was shortly after Everson’s point that, on that glorious rooftop, on the cloudless, breezy day near the famous Newcastle shoreline, that Andrew closed his eyes, and thought of home. The poverty. The violence. No hope. Maybe, just maybe, if he could succeed at something in this world, he could make a difference.
He opened his eyes to a shout from Read, who was at his own bin, serving a dropped sack from a failed Avalanches attack. While Read kicked the sack to Andrew, he didn’t think- the time for daydreaming was over.
The sack had been served a little bit wide- he had to take a step to get under it- but he did with ease. And with one fell swoop from his foot, he’d launched the sack hurtling towards the Avalanches’ bin.
Some say the sack had so much spin, it went invisible. Others say it went on fire and blinded the members of the Avalanches. Some even say it tore through Nick Cherrie’s body and killed him, but video footage has since disproven these eyewitness accounts.
What it did do, was flawlessly sink straight into the bin of the Avalanches, and from half the field away.
He had done it. The Hawks lifted him onto their shoulders while Charlie Rogers stood there in disbelief. Shakey had done it.
While the Avalanches still won the match, they’ll tell you of the one memory of Buce that still makes their knees shake with fear- the memory of that Double Buce, the whistle as it flew through the air and the thunderous boom as it crashed into the bin. And Shakey got what he wanted- five years on, the poverty and violence has all but disappeared from Newcastle’s streets.
Well done, Shakey. Today belongs to you.