Being an Essendon supporter can be tough at times.
Clearly, the past few years have not been quite what you would call smooth-sailing for the Bombers and their fans.
Personally, the supplements saga ripped a large piece of the passion I have had for the Essendon Football Club since I was a small child out and threw it in a mouldy gutter.
I was there in 1999 (at the tender age of five) when Carlton ripped Essendon’s collective heart out in the preliminary final.
I was also there in 2000 singing We are the Champions until my voice gave way after the boys had their way with Melbourne.
Those two events represent the lowest and highest points of my time following the Bombers.
Well, they used to.
After the events of the past few years, everything to do with Essendon has seemed to run into a distinct shade of grey.
I have struggled to feel connected to my club, their performances or even the players.
But in the past 12 months or so, the fierce passion and emotion I felt for the club for all of those formative years has started to return.
A win on a Friday night makes for a ripper weekend, while a tough loss ruins my mood again — something I am overwhelmingly happy to have back.
Because football is not about just following a team.
It is about riding the rollercoaster of highs and lows right next to the players, feeling the crushing pain of a loss or an injury and consuming the tender embrace of victory like a man finding an oasis in the desert.
The point of this preamble is to assure you that I am 100 per cent back on the rollercoaster, so when I give my opinion on an Essendon issue, you can feel confident that I am doing so with fistfuls of passion.
And if you are an Essendon supporter you will certainly fall on one side or the other of what I believe is the most divisive conversation surrounding the club at the moment.
Forget the game plan.
Who cares that we don’t run two ways.
Jake Stringer? He is doing all right.
When was the last time we won a final, you ask? No, that’s not it.
None of those topics have me waking up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat and the taste of a bitter nightmare on my tongue.
What does though, is the side’s use of Cale Hooker.
Hooker should never play in Essendon’s forward line again.
If he doesn’t, we will win a flag sooner rather than later.
That is my honest opinion, one I have had for a while now.
The Bombers have persisted with Hooker ‘‘the forward’’ for far too long.
There are plenty of statistics to back up John Worsfold’s decision to play Hooker as an almost permanent forward last year, including a healthy return of 41 goals.
But against Port Adelaide on Sunday, Hooker ‘‘the backman’’ returned in a big way.
Let’s not forget that the Power came into the clash undefeated, while the Bombers entered the fixture with little ammo after putting in an embarrassing performance against the Bulldogs last week.
With Hooker down back though, the Bombers looked a different side.
It is amazing what playing troops in their correct position will do for a team.
Hooker and Michael Hurley present as one of the best two-pronged defensive units in the competition, but when they are split up neither can reach their full potential.
The duo combined for 23 marks in the 22-point victory and should both be patrolling the half-back line come the Anzac Day clash against Collingwood.
Essendon does not need Hooker in attack at all.
Joe Daniher (201cm), James Stewart (197cm), Stringer (192cm) and Patrick Ambrose (191cm) have plenty enough height between them to stretch opposition backlines, while the mosquito fleet of Orazio Fantasia, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Josh Green can be among the best in the business when they are on song.
Add rotations like Devon Smith, Josh Begley, David Myers and even Tom Bellchambers up forward and there is simply no room for Hooker to lumber around and get in everyone’s way.
It is much more effective for Essendon if he is doing that down the other end of the field — it is, after all, a defender’s job to be a nuisance.
I will say it again and I will say it louder — Cale Hooker is an All-Australian defender.
Leave him down back where he belongs.