General Footy Writing: The state of Tom Hawkins’ play

By David Hyland  

     Being an avid football follower I have never in my life of 39 years seen a developing young player subjected to such harsh analysis and vitriol as Tom Hawkins. Firstly I have to declare an interest in Tom Hawkins the young man. I have been his player sponsor at Geelong for the last three years (after a year with Kent Kingsley) and have seen him develop enormously over the past two seasons. This article is being written for a couple reasons, one because I truly believe he will become one of the stars in the AFL with the  Geelong Football Club and secondly to try to dispel and diffuse some of the over the top comment that is being recorded in media circles at the time of writing.

     Tom arrived at Geelong with much fanfare and overblown hype for a big kid straight out of the APS Football system with Melbourne Grammar. He had also won the Larke Medal for the best player at the National Under 17 championships. The fact that his father and grandfather had already played for the club further helped the football scribes and marketing people to build hysteria and a “great white hope” persona even before his first game. Everyone in football circles knows that the APS system whilst being a good breeding ground for talent does not equip the players with the necessary fitness grounding to become ready-made stars in the AFL. This has been clearly evidenced by Melbourne’s Jack Watts.    

    His first game has also contributed to much of the current scrutiny. To get three goals in your first game against a struggling Carlton side and then be compared to a young Tony Lockett was perhaps a premature comparison. He has since had a few good games and shown glimpses of this early form but I believe he still needs that harder fitness base. His foot injury last year was more serious than Geelong lead people to believe and I think it restricted his development in the early part of this year. This lead to a reduced pre-season again and many do not realise that he is still not yet 21 and a baby in AFL Terms.

   It was interesting to see him compared correctly to his peers (those taken in the 2006 draft) who share not only age but also very similar game statistics by Michael Auciello in the Geelong Advertiser see below:

Jack Riewoldt (Richmond Pick 13 2006)

38 Games, Avg. Marks 5.1, Avg. Disposals 10.4, Avg. Goals 1.1

Kurt Tippett (Adelaide Pick 32 2006)

33 Games, Avg. Marks 3.1, Avg. Disposals 8.5, Avg. Goals 1.3

Tom Hawkins (Geelong Pick 41 (father son) 2006)

32 Games, Avg. Marks 4.9, Avg. Disposals 11.0, Avg. Goals 1.3

 

    The luckless Scott Gumbleton taken at pick 2 by Essendon in the 2006 draft has played just 5 games since being drafted. It is clear by the above statistics that his development is at least consistent with others in his age group and the others listed above are touted as having bright futures.

    I am wondering whether it is a product of modern society that we must have instant gratification in every area of our lives and whether this is now applying to young draftees. Apart from the clearly exceptional Joel Selwood how many draftees instantly and consistently make it to a high standard in the AFL.  We all know that the answer is very few out of the 80 or so drafted each year. Most take quite some time to develop and some never even make it at all wasting thousands of development dollars. I am loathe to use the “big blokes take longer” line but I still believe that in this case this is true.

    When Geelong confirmed that they would take Tom as a father son selection in the 2006 draft the media asked the then AIS Development coach Jason McCartney as to what he thought about Tom Hawkins and his response  was but one word “Star”. If Tom Hawkins is still producing inconsistently and with this output when he is 25 and has played in around 80-100 games you would probably say his card should be marked. I have seen enough to suggest that with this player that his best is not far away and he just needs more strength, fitness and confidence to realise that he can bust apart a game with his size and ability. Geelong supporters don’t give up on the Hawk just yet!

About David Hyland

Just a mad keen footy supporter, whom would like to perhaps get to the stage of being able to post an article on here. Support the cats and have been alive long enough to have them disappoint me. Still just hopeful they can do the job this year and go down as a “Truly Great Team” or otherwise we will have to endure years of those underachieving country bumkins.
I was educated in Geelong and live there now as I have apart from about 5 years in the late 80s and early 90s. Played lots of Junior footy in the region and some seniors in GDFL with Modewarre (the junior home of the Abletts).

Comments

  1. David,

    Well said. As a fellow Cats fan I agree that Tom has terrific potential. He’s had a few quiet weeks but we must continue to give him a go. Good to see Bomber agrees.

    On Sunday he was up against the best defence in the league. I’m sure he learnt a lot, as did the rest of the side in a gallant loss.

    We seem to be very tough on big blokes when they have an off day. As you say, Tom’s not yet 21 and has already played a number of good games for us. Mark Blake is 23 and has carried our ruck division for most of the last 2 years (stats show he is one of the best tap ruckmen in the AFL). Shane Mumford turned 23 on Sunday and is a promoted rookie. It was his 14th game for god’s sake!

    Everyone’s on their backs because they’re not to the standard of Riewoldt, Cox, Sandilands or perhaps Gardiner (first really good game in 5 years?) at this stage. Not many are. With rare exceptions I believe big fellows don’t reach their best until their mid to late 20’s.

    While it will be great to welcome Brad Ottens back (I hope) in a couple of weeks, let’s say thanks to these inexperienced big Cats (along with Tom Lonergan – 27 games and a lost kidney) who have helped us win 55 of our last 59 games.

  2. danielle says:

    Tom Hawkins is a great player, but just like Jen Hawkins he could be a success in the modeling field!

  3. Stainless says:

    David

    I reckon it’s Geelong’s own fans who are most guilty of the hype around Hawkins. When I suggested at a game last year that he should earn a reputation on the field rather than just sport the name of his famous dad, the Geelong fans around me arked up as though I’d uttered an extreme blasphemy.

    As a subscriber to the theory that big guys take longer to develop than small guys, I’m certainly prepared to believe that Hawkins has the physique and the pedigree to make it in the AFL (eventually). But so far, he’s done very little to warrant the adulation that Geelong supporters heap on him. And Sunday proved beyond all doubt that at the moment he just can’t cut it in the pressure cooker of top-of-the-table games. If I was a Geelong supporter, I’d be very nervous seeing him in the Grand Final 22.

    And yes, I will confess to being a disgruntled Richmond supporter who’d love to have the luxury of considering whether Tom Hawkins is going to be our next champion or not. But since you made the comparison with Jack Riewoldt (who I personally think also has a long way to go), it seems that Jack’s stats read marginally better to date despite being in a substandard team that has rarely provided the silver service delivery that Tomahawk has received.

  4. Josh Barnstable says:

    Drop Hawkins, bring in Lonergan. Tom 2 (Lonergan) kicked 40 goals for the Cats last year and I can’t see Tom 1 (Hawkins) doing that this year. Also bring in Ryan Gamble.

  5. David – agree largely with what you say. Big blokes take longer because they’re usually more stupid (I’m only 5’6″).

    But what worries me about Tom Hawkins is not that he is being beaten by his opponents, but he seems to have a lack of understanding as to where to stand, how to find space, and where to run.

    I hope he comes good because he is a talent, and from all reports, a nice bloke too.

  6. David,

    Excellent article. It’s probably the first intelligent thing I’ve read about Hawkins this year. I’m certainly not expecting anything as measured or rational from the football media.

    The fact is, he is a young forward who has shown improvement, but still needs a lot more to make it as a consistent league footballer. I’m not sure how any of this could be surprising. He’s 20 years old. He’s only played 32 games. I’d love to go through the careers of Brown, Hall, Fevola etc. and see how their figures match up at the same point. I would guess they’d be about the same. No key forward apart from John Coleman has ever been a superstar from day 1. All players take time, and there’s no magic formula to when they’ll put it all together.

    That doesn’t mean Hawkins gets a free ride for the rest of the season – he certainly doesn’t. But what will be lost among the usual hysteria is that he has played some good football this year. He had excellent games against Brisbane and Sydney early in the season, and was serviceable against West Coast and Port Adelaide more recently. It’s not all doom and gloom.

    And I’m sorry to say Josh, Lonergan isn’t an improvement. He did have some reasonable games last season (it was actually 36 goals, not 40), but in 4 games against Hawthorn and the Bulldogs he only kicked 5 goals. Grand Final day demonstrated quite clearly he’s not the answer. He was given another chance in round 1 this year against Hawthorn and was just as bad as Hawkins if not worse. Although it’s a great story for him to be even playing football again, people have to remember he’s had 4 years longer in the system, being drafted way back in 2002.

    If Hawkins continues to underperform, then he’ll unquestionably need to spend some time in the seconds. But for me he’s easily our best option as a second key forward to Mooney (it isn’t Ryan Gamble either, he’s a flanker). The club needs to persevere with him.

  7. David,

    I think Tom has hard hands. On the few occasions I’ve seen him, he’s shown little capacity to cup the ball in his palms like a more instinctive player would do. The comparison here is Quentin Lynch, who is a mountain of a man, and a real trier, but he has no natural capacity to mark the ball.

    From a media point of view, it’s simply the case that Tom is news. He’s 198 centimetres, with big muscles, a top football pedigree, an exclusive school pedigree, a handsome face, twinkling eyes, and a charismatic way about him. He was touted BY SCOUTS as a potential No.1 pick in his final year at school. He’s got so many attention-grabbing traits that, as unfair or otherwise as it might be, there is no way he could avoid attention if he tried.

    We could argue all day about whether the media responds to the hype or creates it. The truth is, it’s a bit of both.

    The only thing the poor bloke can do is accept it and get on with things. It’s important that he has good support to help him, and just listening to Bomber this week, and knowing that he comes from a good family, I reckon he’s got that support.

  8. Richard E. Jones says:

    DAVID, Burkie and Mark S: have you heard the old, old saying —- looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
    That’s our Tomahawk. And what’s this nonsense about youth ?
    Glen Jakovich was 18 when he played in his 1st Weagles premiership team. He was, prolly still is, a big bloke.
    Joel Selwood is about the same age, give or take a month or 2, as Tommy H.
    Hawkins might take time to mature, but at Skilled we don’t have time (or the patience, I hastily add) to watch this maturity take 3 or 4 seasons to fully emerge.
    We need a big forward firing right now.
    Let’s see how he goes against Brissie at the Gabbatoir tomorrow night. With all the ‘outs’ we’ve got, it’s time for the Tomahawk to step up. They’ve got a few out, as well.

  9. Geelong supporters should have been concerned when in the Fremantle game at Subi Tommy had a shot from 35m on a bit of an angle and went for that sideways kick Roughead and others use when up against the point post. It made it clear the Cats have two key forwards who hate kicking for goal.

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