AFL Round 1 – Hawthorn v Geelong: They’re in Our Heads

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

 

It’s been five years this year. It’s finally starting to sink in for me. That illogical part of my brain that doesn’t acknowledge time as a linear function and clings to the belief that I can and will get a second chance to do things over (and do them better) has finally realised what the rest of my brain and the rest of the world has long known: we will never get 2008 back.

We can never fix it. We can never go back and find a way to negate Hodge, or shut down Dew. We can never stop Tom Harley getting knocked out, or Mooney missing that shot from five metres out. Brad Ottens will forever fluff the chance to run into an open forward line and kick a much-needed goal, and Harry will always be caught between two minds and drop the ball.

We can never erase those looks of utter desolation, disbelief and pain – ours and the players. It happened nearly half a decade ago. It’s in the past. And yet it isn’t.

Hawthorn fans might be getting sick and tired of seeing Tommy Hawkins’ goal after the siren. Big deal. We’re getting sick of seeing Enright, Ablett and co. crying after the 2008 loss. We’ve endured those replays that inevitably come up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME we play the Hawks. As if we could forget!

We see your celebrations. We see Buddy and Hodge. We see Shane Crawford, hear him shout “That’s what I’m talking about!”, and it’s 2008 all over again. But like a sick, twisted Groundhog Day, we can’t change the outcome. We know what’s coming, every time, and we can’t stop it.

But we can try to make ourselves feel better. Try to convince ourselves that if we do get a second chance, we won’t make the same mistake. We try to convince the universe to give us that ultimate chance at redemption.

We are Geelong. Hear us roar. See us defeat the Hawks.

The streak, Kennett’s curse, is exciting. It’s raw, ferocious and it brings out a savage pleasure in every Cats fan. We hate the Hawks. We love to beat them. But we have nothing against the players themselves. It’s the fact they’ve got something we want, something we foolishly think is rightfully ours. Something we can never, ever have. Ever.

The 2008 flag.

Until we have the chance to face Hawthorn again in a grand final, we will continue trying to convince the universe it made a mistake five years ago, the only way we know how.

By proving to everyone we can and will beat Hawthorn. At Every. Single. Opportunity.

***

The sun comes over nicely just as Mum, Katherine, Darren and I approach the MCG this fine Easter Monday. It’s the first game of the season, but walking through the inner concourse, it’s like footy never went away. Perhaps this ongoing war between Hawthorn and Geelong has something to do with the feeling: we’re not starting something new, we’re just resuming hostilities.

There’s a disarmingly playful, joyous, Easter long-weekendy feel about the place. After a week (a month, an offseason, five years) of build-up, I feel oddly relaxed as I enter the hallowed ground on this, my favourite day of the year: Geelong Versus Hawthorn Day.

Katherine, the newly self-professed footy bogan, decides to abandon her dear family upstairs to soak up the standing room atmosphere at ground level. Sitting, watching the crowd (which seems more brown than blue), the nerves finally take stock of what is happening, and begin to jangle.

The Hawthorn banner reads simply:

The Cats just ran out of lives

My stomach begins its rehearsal of the nauseating dance. Superstitions are just that: superstitions, but how poetic for the Cats to bow out with nine straight wins, especially after how the last one came about. What could possibly beat that?

But we won’t lose this game. We’re in form. We’ve had an extra month. And we’re playing Hawthorn.

Curse aside, we really should win this one.

So of course, in true Geelong fashion, we do our very best to lose it in the opening half. Our young players (who were pregame so exciting!) look just like that: young players. Too young to take on last year’s runners-up. Too young to be relied on in a blockbuster.

Hawthorn has refused to forgive Hawkins for what happened last year, and have finally figured out how to negate him, even with the late withdrawal of Brian Lake. He has no impact. Pods is trying his heart out, but he has few friends. Jimmy has barely seen the ball, our rucks are struggling and our defenders are under the pump. We have chances early, but we miss and miss again. And then it’s all brown and gold.

The Hawks look like they’re doing it easy. What form? they ask. We laugh in the face of this ‘form’ you speak of. Geelong’s preseason of positives looks like amounting to less than nothing as we’re back to where we were at the end of 2012.

Exactly where we were. On the MCG in a must-win contest, completely unable to kick a goal. Just like the qualifying final. The thought settles on my chest like a boulder. I really thought we could do something this year, and it looks like our season is over before it has even begun. Buddy’s getting goals, and Breust won’t keep quiet.

The Cats look nervous, and that makes us nervous. The Hawthorn fans are cheering, loud and proud. As they ought to, but every roar is like a physical blow.

It comes to actual physical blows down on the wing as Buddy flattens Selwood. The Hawks really don’t like our captain.

But just as the tension and anxiety feel like they will surely smother us Cats fans, Smedts produces a beauty. But we are not given immediate relief as the umpires call on a score review, and it’s a lengthy one. Even the third umpire decisions in the Big Bash League have nothing on it, which, if you attended any BBL games this year, you would know is saying something.

The goal is finally signalled and we are put out of our misery. It might only be one goal, but it’s the start. It’s better than last September already.

The Cats find the goals a bit more in the second term, but it’s a frustrating quarter. They waste good work and the Hawks are still piling on the goals. The umpires cop the crowd’s wrath. Hawkins finally gets in on the action (albeit briefly), much to the Hawks fans’ disgust, which I love.

Varcoe has put in 100 per cent effort since the game began, and is working himself into form. He does some beautiful end-to-end work, links up well and kicks a thoroughly deserved goal.

These are salvageable points for us Cats fans, but the mood and feeling seem inevitable: this is Hawthorn’s game.

Even though the Cats are improving, ever so slightly, Darren ups and leaves at half time. He will watch the rest at home. This game is too toxic, too bad for the health. It’s putting us all in a bad mood. I wonder why I think I love this day so much: it’s horrible, absolutely unbearable. It is every year.

Poor Darren. He has a history of leaving just before things get interesting. Or maybe his departure is the catalyst. We’ll give him that, make him feel good about his decision.

Because after half time, it’s like the Cats come out and say: “So, about that first half – APRIL FOOLS!”

It’s a team reinvigorated, a team inspired. Selwood does what every great captain does, and leads by example. There’s no questioning his heart or commitment: he’s in for the long haul.

Chappy has been ‘on’ ever since the second quarter, when he gave away a goal and immediately got one back. West and Blicavs continue to fight, even if it is a losing battle in that department. Podsy keeps doing what Podsy does best, what he’s been doing all game: having a presence. He is a big, strong, scary (adorable, from a blue-and-white perspective) man, and he knows how to play. Motlop keeps wandering away from the action, finding a nice quiet paddock, and then suddenly ending up with the ball. Run, run, bounce. Bundy and Stokes are playing their hearts out, and are really worrying the Hawks.

The team as a whole is really worrying the Hawks, for suddenly Geelong is only a goal down, then on even-pegging, then in front!

With the irrational certainty of these contests, one team has come back from miles behind to take the lead and force a thrilling finish. This time, it’s Geelong. I reach for mum’s hand for a reassuring squeeze on more than one occasion. This is really happening. Please, please let us keep this up. Don’t let this be a flash in the pan.

Suddenly, the young players don’t look so green, but my word they do look fast. Run, run as fast as you can, Hawks, they taunt. You can’t catch me.

Taylor and Mackie are marking strongly in defence; Lonergan is getting the job done on Buddy. Rivers is a calm head, and Boris is Boris. Geelong is looking like a new, improved version of the true Geelong from 2012, and it’s beautiful to see. For us.

For Hawthorn, it’s like a recurring nightmare.

It’s hard work for the Hawks, but they keep in touch. It’s only two points at the final change.

And then Geelong really makes its intentions known. The lead gets out to 20-odd, and it should be more. The tenth straight win is there for the Cats, begging to be taken. The Hawks blanche at this, and fight back tooth and nail. They chip away at the lead, and suddenly it’s back to eight points, and Breust is having a shot on goal.

It’s too close. It’s always too close.

But luck, which has not been Geelong’s ally today, finally shines on the hoops, and Breust misses. Seven points.

The battle doesn’t ease a smidgen, but then the siren blows.

Over. It’s over. We did it again.

***

My throat is raw, my head is pounding, and I’m going to be sick as anything for the next week, but it was more than worth it.

This rivalry, it’s a two-way street.

They can’t beat us.

They crumble time and time again, and it’s leaving a psychological mark. But we also find a way to win from improbable and impossible positions. Miraculous comebacks, remarkable saves. We have a point to prove.

They are absolutely in our heads.

 

Hawthorn:          4.3          8.9          10.10     12.14.86

Geelong:             1.5          5.7          10.12     13.15.93

GOALS

Hawthorn: Breust 2, Franklin 2, Savage 2, Guerra, Rioli, Hale, Smith, Lewis, Roughead.

Geelong: Smedts 2, Podsiadly 2, Duncan 2, Hawkins 2, Christensen, Mackie, Selwood, Chapman, Varcoe.

BEST

Hawthorn: Mitchell, Gibson, Lewis, Breust, Burgoyne.

Geelong: Selwood, Podsiadly, Varcoe, Stokes, Duncan, Smedts, Chapman, Motlop, Mackie, Taylor, Lonergan.

Malarkey medal votes:
3) Selwood
2) Podsiadly
1) Stokes

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol' ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. PeterSchumacher says:

    A fantastic match report, I loved the way that you back grounded the game and built up the tension of the contest. Well done.

  2. Richard Jones says:

    ISN’T it delightful, Susie.
    A whole summer to consider all the possibilities, and then we turn around a 20-point deficit and win —- AGAIN!!

    To make matters even sweeter the shaven-headed Creator of The Curse demands Clarko’s head, then recants and apologises forcing Sewell to claim the players hadn’t even bothered thinking through the sack-the-coach call.
    Keep that Squawk pot bubbling, Jeffery.

    And how good is Selwood? The ex-Bendigo boy leads from the front all the time and was again The Hoops’ best on Easter Monday.

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Terrific read Susie. Cheers.

    I’m interested that you had The Pod as Geelong’s second best. It’s opinion so I have no qualms.

    My best five Geelong players were Selwood, Chapman, Lonergan, Mackie and Stokes. Besides Selwood, you could argue the toss over my list.

    I said to JTH at the All Nations pre the Chef driving us to the game in his ute with McDonalds fries containers in the back that I was hoping that speed would become a factor.

    It did.

  4. “Savage pleasure” sums up the feeling perfectly. Great piece on a great game!

  5. Thanks everyone for reading and your great comments! What a win – the Cays defy logic and reason.

    Flynny, I knew that would be a questionable choice! Consider my second BOG choice as being like the coach’s award: I gave it to Pods for effort a for being one of maybe three Cats players to actually do something in the first half. I think he was our fourth highest ranking in terms of supercoach points, too. But I was more than willing to chuck 16 names in that list.

  6. Obviously, by “Cays” I meant “Cats”. Hopefully in future I remember to edit posts from my iPhone…

  7. Brilliantly evocative piece Susie. And you’re so right. It’s just so difficult to move on from 2008 when they have something which is rightfully ours. It still hurts so much. We deserved back-to-back flags and were denied. Well … we denied ourselves, truth be told. And I suppose without the pain of 2008, we probably would never have had 2009 or, arguably 2011. But it’s great that the AFL affords us two heart-wrenching therapy sessions a year. And each time we heal a bit more. And each time, Hawthorn’s hold on that flag seems a bit more tenuous. And their fans know it. But I still turn away from the tv whenever there is any footage from 2008. I still can’t bear to look. Seriously, Stuart Dew for gods sake?!!!!

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Susie,

    I’m happy with your justification.

    The Supercoach points stat is a really interesting one.

    I don’t follow Supercoach so cheers for that.

  9. Hi Susie,

    Loved your piece, it completely captured my feelings of this game too, particularly at half time. I took my parents to the game, and my 81-year old father is always extremely negative and critical when the Cats make any errors. So by half time I was not only wondering how I’d cope with a Hawthorn win, but also with another half of my Dad’s comments.

    The second half turn-around made me feel great, not only for myself, but for my father, hearing his roar every time Geelong kicked another goal. Epic games like this remind me why I love this game and the Cats so much!

  10. 3 – Selwood
    2 – Varcoe
    1 – Smedts

    Very entertaining read Susie. The key to this game was the quality of touches. Sam Mitchell’s 34 possessions caused nowhere near as much havoc as Smedts and Varcoe.

  11. Dips, you’re spot on! I tried a few different combos for my 3-2-1, but I wasn’t happy with any! I ha Stoles an Varcoe on a par, I chose Stokes by virtue of him being my equal favourite player. Varcoe, Smedts, Duncan and Motlop desperately unlucky that 7 doesn’t fit into three! And then we move onto Chappy, Mackie, Taylor… Gah! It’s a conundrum!

    Helen, you’re so right! The Cats are simply a marvellous team to follow, we’re so very lucky and privileged! I know well where your father was coming from, I got pretty feral in the first half myself.

    Jane – thank-you! I believe in the butterfly theory, so I am a subscriber to the thought we wouldn’t have won the other two if we didn’t lose in 08, but that doesn’t ease the pain like logic tells me it should! A couple of years back I forced myself to watch the whole thing, start to finish, to try to cleanse myself of it. Didn’t work. I still teared up and was forced to look away from the screen when I saw three seconds of their celebrations on an ad the other day. It’s ridiculous. We soared too high and then came crashing back to reality.

  12. Rick Kane says:

    Hi Susie

    A very good report (like I’d say it’s excellent – that would be too painful). I want the pain to end, if only so I don’t have to again see my 11 year old son smiling like an assassin just before he launches into that awful Cats song.

    And I gave 3 to Selwood, 2 to Sammy and 1 to Chappy. My son had exactly the same votes as Dips.

    Hopefully next time we’ll … oh, for gawd sake, I’m going out for a walk and I may be a while!

  13. Rick, thanks for reading. I’ll admit I do feel a little sorry for you and other Hawks fans. But keep in mind: you DO have the flag. So from a Cats fan perspective, you guys are still in the lead.

    Well in the lead.

    It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? As good as the games are for the most part, we’re both of us unsatisfied.

  14. Susie

    Your piece is exactly what this site is about: giving a voice to writing that is heartfelt, tortured and wry. Keep them coming

  15. Mark Doyle says:

    It is bemusing that some one-eyed fanatical Geelong supporters are still bitter and twisted that the Cats lost the ‘unlosable’ 2008 grand final. In my opinion the 1967 and 1989 grand final losses were more disappointing. Hawthorn won the 2008 grand final because they had a very effective defensive game plan which was to apply strong pressure to Geelong players with the ball and gain possession either by a forced skill error or a rushed behind and counter attack from the backline with skilful players such as Hodge and Young to link with blokes such as Crawford, Mitchell, Bateman and Ellis through the middle part of the ground. The scoring difference was that Hawthorn had more effective small forwards such as Williams, Rioli and Dew.
    The games since 2008 have all been good contests between two very good teams and the Cats have won these 10 games because of better depth and team play, whereas Hawthorn have relied on too few players such as Mitchell, Franklin, Sewell and Hodge (when he has played).
    The main reasons that the Cats won on Monday were excellent four quarter games from the experienced Selwood, Mackie, Chapman, Enright, Taylor and Lonergan plus the pace of blokes such as Varcoe, Duncan, Stokes, Motlop, Christensen and Smedts.
    We Geelong suppoters have been very fortunate over the past 25 years of the AFL with 16 finals and 8 grand finals appearances for three premierships.

    It is also interesting that Hawthorn supporters have developed a culture of Melbourne eastern suburbs arrogance and I and other Cat supporters were very pleased when they left last years grand final en masse with their tails between their legs after Nick Malceski kicked the last goal.

  16. Mark, fair points you make. As I’m 22, I can only clearly recall the 2008: the others are were history before I was even born.

    I don’t really believe in the “curse” as such, but I find it is the easiest way to describe what’s going on without being unnecessarily technical.

    While I am biased – as fans tend to be – I wouldn’t call myself one-eyed. Though I am probably a close approximation of that. But then, Chappy is still “bitter” and “twisted” and so, really, there are worse things I could do than share company with him.

  17. Rick Kane says:

    “Hawthorn had more effective small forwards such as Williams, Rioli and Dew” – There’s a lot of ways I’d describe Dew and interestingly small wouldn’t be one of them.

    Mr Doyle, I was nodding in agreement through most of your observations until I got to the bit about arrogance. Yawn. Trust me, we are riddled with as many insecurities as any chamionship team. Mind you, we are not as arrogant as say The Pies, who proclaim in their club song that the Premiership is a cakewalk or that other side who reckon that they’re the greatest team of all.

    Cheers

  18. Richard Naco says:

    It seems to me that there have been ten straight games when said side could definitely lay claim to being the greatest side of all.

    Well, by comparison to the happy team, which rarely is after those truly epic contests.

    (Always loved your tales, Mother Goose, but this one takes the cake. Kudos.)

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