The turn of the century has seen two of the most remarkable rivalries.
One of them, Sydney and West Coast, will take to the field on Thursday night but the more recent set of matches still fresh in everyone’s minds are between Hawthorn and Geelong.
The Cats won 11 in a row against the Hawks between being upstaged in the 2008 Grand Final and the Preliminary Final in 2013. During this time, the average winning margin for the Cats’ 11 wins was 8.7 points.
This streak, dubbed the ‘Kennett Curse,’ featured some amazing swings in momentum.
Each week, Aflplayers.com.au will bring to light the perspective of someone at the heart of a memorable moment from a game played between two sides before their upcoming clash.
Describing the rivalry between the two sides, premiership defender Josh Hunt said playing the Hawks always brought the best out of the club.
“The build-up was always finals-like. We always played the Hawks in Round 1 and then again later in the year a bit closer to finals, so there was always a massive build-up externally,” Hunt told Aflplayers.com.au.
“At the end of the day, it was two teams who went to war out there every time and for a period there I think the average winning margin was around a goal.
“They were great fun to play and were always nerve-racking games but if you didn’t like those games as an AFL player then there is something wrong with you.”
While there are many games that come to mind when thinking of Hawthorn and Geelong; Bartel’s point after the siren in 2009, Shaun Burgoyne’s goal in the 2013 prelim to end the curse and last year’s qualifying final that ultimately ended Hawthorn’s chances of four-straight premierships, there was another game that was equally as dramatic — Round 19, 2012.
When the first Friday in August rolled around, the second-placed Hawks were gunning for the Swans’ top spot while the sixth-placed Cats were vying for a top four berth come season’s end.
Geelong couldn’t have started any better, kicking the first five goals before the Hawks, playing without superstar Lance Franklin, even troubled the scoreboard. The onslaught continued afterwards as Geelong went into the quarter-time break leading 9.3.57 to Hawthorn’s 2.0.12. Paul Chapman kicked three first-quarter goals, while Mitch Duncan and Steve Johnson each had two to their name.
The Hawks needed a spark and after Tom Hawkins extended the lead to 51 points in the first two minutes of the second term, Alastair Clarkson’s men began the slow process of clawing their way back into the contest.
Goals to Luke Breust, David Hale, Jack Gunston, Cyril Rioli and Jarryd Roughead reduced the margin to 17 points by half-time before an even third term kept the Geelong lead to 19 points at the final change.
The Hawks struck first, with Shaun Burgoyne’s second goal and Paul Puopolo likewise reducing the margin to seven points before Geelong’s James Podsiadly converted a free-kick and another Hawkins contested mark and goal — his fourth for the match — gave the Cats control once more.
A Rioli goal at the 11-minute mark sparked a run of four unanswered majors for the Hawks, who not only worked their way in front but extended their lead to eight points with the help of a couple of handy behinds.
Now in a seemingly unimaginable circumstance of trailing Hawthorn at the 27-minute mark of the final quarter, the Cats needed something special to deliver their ninth-straight victory against their famous foes.
Having announced himself as a footballer during the previous-year’s Grand Final against Collingwood, Tom Hawkins was having a career-best year in 2012. The then 24-year-old had played all but one game, kicking 41 goals from 16 matches when he lined up on the undersized Ryan Shoenmakers, with the Hawks’ best key defender Josh Gibson being sent to Podsiadly, who had terrorised the smaller Hawthorn defence with 13 goals in their previous three encounters.
“The 2011 Grand Final was a big confidence thing for ‘Hawk’ and it was a real coming-of-age moment. He looked like a guy who grew in stature in every contest against a really great defender and he’s been a forced to reckoned with ever since,” Hunt added.
“He had been copping a fair bit of stick about his goal-kicking and his various inaccuracies, and the one thing with him was that he was always a better kick from further out, he could get back and give it his all and not have to guide it through. He seemed more comfortable being further out.”
Hawkins had sent the ball through the big sticks four times already on this Friday night but when he received a handball and snapped truly from 40 metres out nearing the 28-minute mark for his fifth major the lead was back to two points.
A rushed behind and a missed opportunity by the Hawks resulted in the lead increasing to four points for the final time. The Cats found the footy in their hands in the centre of the ground with a little more than 25 seconds remaining.
Hawkins received a Joel Selwood pass just inside the 50 metre arc with 20 seconds remaining and the footy world held its breath.
Kicking just as the final siren sounded, the key forward kicked truly to give the Cats their ninth-straight victory over the Hawks in a thriller.
“He took the mark and in the back of your mind I remember thinking ‘gee he needs to kick this’ but being so late in the game and being that far out there might not have been much left in his legs to get the journey,” Hunt said.
“His legs aren’t the smallest getting around and to be honest the kick never looked like missing, and it’ll be one he remembers for the rest of his life as well — he got to live out every kid’s dream.
“It didn’t surprise me that the kick was straight enough but I was surprised at how he made the distance so comfortably.”
The following was one of the more memorable moments for Geelong, with Hawkins celebrating and teammates swarming around him to commend such a brilliant performance.
“I was subbed out so I remember watching him celebrate that goal. As a teammate, I couldn’t help but smile because he’s a happy guy and you don’t get to see that on an adult’s face too often — it was like he was a kid on Christmas morning finally opening that present he wanted all year.
“He had that much energy when he kicked the goal and he couldn’t just jump once, he kept bouncing and that’s why we play footy — for that moment when all the hard work has paid off.
“If it was anyone else, they might’ve fallen over by the time the sixth bloke jumped on top of him but Hawk can carry a few because he’s a big fella. It was awesome that it was him getting us over the line against the Hawks.”