Cyril was the sub, a sign of Hawthorn’s depth and its willingness to ease the champ into this match after what seemed a surprisingly fast eight weeks or more on the sidelines with that troublesome hammy. But winning does that. Time flies when you’re having fun and after eleven wins on the trot the Hawks were placed to surpass the club’s winning streak from way back in 1961, its inaugural premiership-winning season.
But tonight we faced the Cats and even with Jeff slurping carbonara and sipping Chianti on the other side of the globe, the curse was all the talk. We hadn’t beaten Geelong since our most recent premiership in 2008. The argument that the premiership matters more than the nine matches we’ve lost to the Cats since then was beginning to wear a little thin.
Everything about Hawthorn’s form and its position on the ladder suggested we should win this. Even the bookies had us favourites. But, in quiet dis-belief, I heard myself thinking out loud, “but this is Geelong”.
Like David Bowie and Queen the Cats are perhaps the only side that can keep the Hawks “Under Pressure”. As the ball was bounced that beat rolled around in my head – Um bu bum, da de da da…um bu bum, da de da da!
Through the TV screen I could feel it pushing down on me, and I could see it in the Hawthorn players. It’s the terror of knowing.
The opening minutes saw the Cats control the play while Hawthorn took some time to find any rhythm. Two early majors to Geelong had me worried. But Roughead looked sharp, playing like he has been for the better part of the season. The ball just seems to find him and once he’s got it, he uses it well. He has the sort of form you can’t train into a player and it’s form one doesn’t question – pencil Roughie in as your Brownlow dark horse.
I was watching this match on the tube with Natalia. I like to educate the North Queenslander on the nuances of our great game and she’s always receptive, and a quick learner.
“Why can’t Hawthorn beat Geelong?” she asked me. I didn’t answer. I didn’t know the answer. “We beat them in 2008,” was all I could eventually offer in reply. The fact was, for the moment at least, Geelong wouldn’t let Hawthorn get their hands on the ball let alone even think about winning this one.
Um bu bum, da de da da!
After being sent upstairs for review, Hale’s shot for goal was given the all-clear for Hawthorn’s first for the night. But the harder working Cats responded. When Podsiadly plucked it out of the air in the goal square, I wanted it to be 2008 again. The Cats were in front by what seemed a commanding 17 points. As it turned out, a three goal margin would be.
“Bring on Cyril,” I pleaded.
Rioli, for now, remained on the pine and when James Kelly, who doesn’t kick many, decided it was time he should, the Geelong was well in control, leading by 23 points.
Um bu bum, da de da da!
When Roughie squeezed one through for Hawthorn’s second the Hawks began to lift, I could feel it through the plasma. Hill was running and evading, while Mitchell, looking frustrated moments earlier, started using those silky skills to perfection.
At quarter time, the Cats led the Hawks by 16 points. A respectable margin given Geelong’s blistering start.
The second quarter saw Geelong continue to move the ball more quickly and effectively than the Hawks. Tomahawk was having Lake’s measure. Hodge had barely touched the pill while Sam Mitchell was everywhere. So too were the Cats.
Um bu bum, da de da da!
But the Hawks persisted. Burgoyne was a saving grace in defence, but we needed more, we needed some spark. I wanted to see Cyril.
“What this world is about, watching some good friends screaming, let me out!”
For all of the second term both sides were inaccurate in front of goal. Hawthorn was matching Geelong with its pressure on the man and the ball. Mitchell led by example.
Buddy copped a bad bounce and one in the back only for the free to see his banana pound the post. His direct opponent, Lonergan was having a day out. Geelong’s pressure was immense but the Hawks were now absorbing it much better. Buddy was looking ominous, but a massive effort on the run from the big man resulted in another poster. Sixteen minutes of play had passed for no goals from either side.
Then a turnover involving Kelly saw the ball fall to Mitchell who shot it to Breust who in turn snapped it through to get the margin back to 10 points. This game was lifting a notch.
Then Hill was silly and the Selwood free resulted in a goal to Geelong.
Roughie had another opportunity on the half-time siren but his kick resulted in yet another behind (surely a record for a Geelong-Hawthorn encounter). At half-time the margin hovered at three goals in Geelong’s favour.
At the start of the third, the Cats peppered the goals. But Brian Lake was improving.
Then on came Cyril, looking fitter than ever and much to the appreciation of the brown and gold faithful who were vocal in response.
As expected Rioli added some needed spark, bouncing this way and that, nipping and tucking, feigning and evading. He appeared sharp and fast and the Hawks seemed to lift a little with him back on the paddock. When Roughie executed a lightning-quick snap shot from in heavy traffic, Hawthorn had a sniff with the margin back to 13 points.
The Cats continued their pressure game but by now they were being more than equalled by the improving Hawks. The game was one of behinds aplenty.
Um bu bum, da de da da!
By quarter’s end, only one major had been kicked, by the Hawks. Both sides were turning the screws tight. We can win this!
The final stanza was one to remember. Geelong started well and only minutes in it felt like the game was as good as over. The Cats extended their lead by another three goals to put the margin out to 33 points. I started drafting congratulatory text messages to my Geelong friends before I was stopped in my tracks.
Without warning the Hawks piled on five straight goals to draw within three points. Jack Gunston’s snap shot was a highlight. In the midst of this almost miraculous comeback, Hawthorn was awarded a free kick, 30 metres from goal for an interchange infringement against Josh Hunt. David Hale kicked truly and the Cats were furious.
“Chippin’ around, kick my brains ’round the floor, these are the days – it never rains but it pours.”
Spurred on by Hawthorn’s blitzkrieg, Geelong responded as they seem to be able to do time and again. A late goal from Josh Caddy gave the Cats the breathing space needed to hold the rampaging Hawks and win by 10 points in another classic.
The difference between the two sides was simple – the Cats kept Hawthorn under pressure and didn’t let up.
I couldn’t get that beat out of my head – Um bu bum, da de da da…um bu bum, da de da da. I trudged off to bed. I was exhausted. But David Bowie and Queen wouldn’t let me sleep:
“This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Time would tell if the Hawks would dance again.
GEELONG 5.2 6.8 6.15 11.16 (82)
HAWTHORN 2.4 3.8 4.11 10.12 (72)
Geelong: Murdoch 3, T Hunt, Motlop, Blicavs, Podsiadly, Kelly, Selwood, Stringer, Caddy
Hawthorn: Roughead 2, Hale 2, Breust, Franklin, Puopolo, Gunston, Simpkin, Savage
Geelong: Selwood, Duncan, Kelly, Murdoch, Caddy, Lonergan, Mackie
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Stratton, Roughead, Gunston, Duryea, Lake
Geelong: Corey (concussion)
Umpires: Stevic, Schmitt, McInerney
Official crowd: 85,197 at the MCG
Our Votes: Selwood (Gee) 3, Mitchell (Haw) 2, Lonergan (Gee) 1