AFL Finals Week 3 – Hawthorn v Geelong: A Curse and a blessing

By Rick Kane

What can I say? I can’t remember much of the game other than we seemed to have control and then the Cats took control and then we clawed back control and then the Cats forced their hand and tightened their grip until it felt like we were suffocating and I was dizzy with despair and I was gasping for air and tired bodies kept flinging themselves at anything and goal umpires were waving one flag instead of two and we had a lead and God knows how much time there was left and a Cat streamed forward and then time stopped. And a ball, or was it a grenade or a talisman sailed through the darkness. And one flag waved, again. And there was light. Blazing like a fire from the horizon to meet my eyes. And I was blinded. And we were alive. And I was singing. A song I know well but still I sung it with such gusto I felt my lungs would explode. And the night settled and when I woke up my whole body was tingling. We beat them. The curse is dead. Ding dong, the curse is dead.

Sport is elemental. We are elemental. We are made of air and water and earth and fire. We might give the appearance of being sophisticated and intelligent but we are really bags of piss and wind. We laughed at the curse, mocked the curse, cursed the curse but we kept losing. By the eighth loss we had had enough of the curse. By the tenth it really felt like we were in its vice like grip.

A curse is only as real as you want it to be. The Kennett curse became a psychological narrative of a great rivalry and sadly, its author was the Hawks. In honour of its death I went looking for great sayings to understand the depth and weight and shadow of a curse. If it has beguiled and bedevilled great thinkers and writers then who am I to write it off as mere happenstance and bunkum? Here are 11 thoughts on curses (that in their own way reflect the Kennett curse) for your delight.

  1. What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, ‘This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!’ Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, ‘Never have I heard anything more divine – Nietzsche
  2. Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost – Southey
  3. You don’t know what a trial it is to be —like me. I’ve got to keep my face like steel in the street to keep men from winking at me – F Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven – Shakespeare
  5. I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar –  Carnegie
  6. Every blessing ignored becomes a curse – Coelho
  7. Poverty makes you wise but it’s a curse – Brecht
  8. Music sounds different to the one who plays it. It is the musician’s curse – Rothfuss
  9. When you write about what you dream, you become a writer. When you dream about what you write, you become haunted by a curse – A Saleh
  10. The doom lies in yourself, not in your name – Tolkien
  11. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness – Roosevelt, E

And here is a saying about blessings, which is what I’m going to call Friday night’s match:

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise – Wilde

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day


  1. Stephen Cooke says

    Rick, there have been tens of thousands of words written about this curse. Most of them superficial; none as enlightening as this.

    And your first paragraph – felt by all Cats and Hawks fans. I didn’t draw breath for 3 quarters. At 3/4 time I didn’t allow myself to dream. I knew the Hawks would come back and to dream of next week was folly.

    I knew we needed two more goals. We kicked one. We lost by five points. Kudos to you, Rick Kane. And your Hawks.

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    And godspeed, Rick Kane. And your Hawks.

  3. Humans are indeed strange creatures. As we evolved we didn’t just live within our environment but tried to understand it. When it didn’t make sense we created answers. To humans there are no such things as continued coincidences, there has to be a reason. Thus was born superstition and religion.

    To this very day, apparently 84% of this planets’ population have religious belief systems (I googled that but would have thought it was actually higher – it probably is as that is only actual religions) that have not one shred of evidence in fact, be it superstitious or through a variety of deity’s. This is perhaps partly because when the fact’s are examined there is no meaning to life, it exists for a while and then it ends. Better to believe something, anything, that gives us an answer we want rather than face probable reality that life is just a coincidence.

    When the human mind is so self capable of contorting itself towards the less believable of 2 options then there is little wonder that curses are readily accepted.

    I recall an actual curse once being placed in football:
    Around 1993, after the racist remarks Winmar received at Victoria Park, President McAlister made a very appallingly derogatory comment about the indigenous peoples. When no satisfactory apology was forthcoming an aboriginal elder pointed the bone at Collingwood and placed a curse on them. At first it was treated as a joke but all of a sudden Collingwood started suffering injuries and losing matches consistently. After about 6 losses in a row they now believed the curse and visited the aboriginal elder, apologised and asked him to lift the curse. He did and Collingwood started winning again. In reality it was all coincidence and psychology but that is the power of the brain – imagination and superstition appear so strong that it is believed.

    Likewise, the Kennett Curse has easily explainable answers.
    1. Geelong 2007-present are one of the greatest teams of all time. They could just about beat anyone on their day
    2 The 2008 Geelong side was the strongest combination over this period, which reached the GF with 23 wins, 1 loss and a percentage of 161.8 – but it failed to land a flag.
    3 Human emotions which are strongest include Pride, Revenge, Anger, Disappointment. These are dealt with by motivation.
    4 Geelong were motivated for revenge due to a catastrophic failure.

    Football is a game of motivation. Coaches use tactics to execute a game plan and motivation to deliver the result. The one thing that can alter this is pressure – real and perceived. Once they started to beat Hawthorn they had belief and this placed psychological pressure on the Hawks. Each additional win created greater belief and pressure.

    Psychology played a key role in the losing run stretching out the losses to 11 in a row as Hawthorn could easily have won 6 of those games. It was again in evidence as numerous set shots by Hawthorn drifted wide on Friday. In the end it was luck that won Hawthorn the game when Varcoe failed to convert.

    With this psycological pressure now gone, I can imagine that Hawthorn will be able to play much freer football this week. They now have belief and confidence.

    The curse is dead, psychologically, as it never actually even existed.

    Go Hawks

  4. That’s some superb writing in the opening paragraph Rick … really got me in your head space. The agony and the ecstasy and then the relief … it must have been some ride for you Hawks fans. Good luck this saturday, but you know where my energy will be focused!

  5. Mr Kane – I have been looking forward to your thoughts on the game. This is a brilliant piece of work because the game was played with such manic energy that no one had any time for thoughts.

    And this week’s game sits on a knife edge too. Hawks lose and its two flags in a row that have been lost. Freo loses and Get Stuffed Lyon has coached in 4 losing grand finals. Both scenarios too much anguish.

    Should be a beauty.

  6. Grant Fraser says

    We take a breath at 2:15 pm, and exhale at 5. Air, water, earth and fire – may they be with our Hawks on Saturday. Such exquisite agony.
    Time for us all to pay the price – again.

  7. Rick, the quote that kept coming to my mind during the last quarter was:

    “This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy” – Chevy Chase

    As for next week…

    “I think it pisses God off when you walk by the colour purple in a field and don’t notice it.” – Shug, in ‘The Color Purple’

    That said, if Freo come out like they did in the first half on Saturday night, you’ll notice it!

  8. RK – does rain and wet on Saturday help Freo or the Hawks?

  9. Grant Fraser says

    Lucky they are wearing white

  10. Thanks Cookie, I’m still getting my breath back.

    Agree Aussie80s, we ‘should’ be able to play freer footy this week.

    Thanks T-Bone, we’re still on the ride. To kinda quote Lucinda Williams, the Cats took our joy and we got it back. Now we’re after the joy at the end of the joyride.

    Hi Dips, see you on Friday. Appreciate your thoughts. Can’t stop pondering those scenarios and others …

    Agree Grant, and this time it’s purplesonal! (That’s what they call in the trade, a bad pun)

    Great quote Litza (from a wonderful film). I’ll reserve the lyric I most want to reflect Saturd’y’s game until Saturd’y afternoon, you know, about 5pm or so! Hopefully!

    Dips, I think it’ll be incidental to the bigger pressure point question. Can the best attacking team beat the best defensive team? And on that question, I’ll take attack every time.


  11. Neil Belford says

    Rick – what do you make of A Clarkson observing at the time, that Hawthorn won in 2008 because they were the best defensive team.

  12. Hi Neil

    I’m not sure what Clarko was referring to specifically. In 2008 the Hawks won the GF 115 to Geelong, 89. That’s hardly defensive. Hodge won the Norm Smith as an attacking half back, sweeping the backline and then taking the ball forward, often, over the wing.

    In 2013, Freo have scored more than 100 points in a game 10 times up to and including last week. The Hawks, by comparison have achieved that result 18 times. In 2008 they achieved it 17 times.

    My 2013 reference point re Freo is that they restrict scoring. And to win on Saturd’y that’s what they’ll have to do. Can they do it? Of course they can but they’ll have to restrict the biggest scoring side of 2013 to do so.

    I don’t think the Hawks defensive game plan of 2008 compares with the 2013 Dockers defensive style at all.


  13. G’day RK,
    Super article. The vibe comes through. As does the curse of the cursed curse.
    On Friday I thought the Cats had it. Roosevelt’s “citizen in a republic” speech kept coming back to me; the Cats were daring greatly.
    The Hawks victory left me baffled. The only answer I could deduce from Roosevelt’s speech was that the Hawks must have been daring MORE greatly.

    How’s the mood in the Hawks camp now?
    History is littered with people& teams who effectively play their “final” in an emotional semi, then get rolled like an English wicket in the true final.
    Having conquered their physical & psychological Everest last Friday, have the hawks peaked?

  14. daniel flesch says

    Thanks very much , E. regnans . I thought i was nervous enough seeing showers forecast for Saturday. Now your last par. has me feeling even worse..

  15. Grant Fraser says

    Rick, been reflecting on your article. It strikes me that a win on Saturday means more than an 11th flag or 6 decades of premierships. In the washup after 2008 the great J.T. Harms wrote a heartfelt piece reflecting on the Cat’s loss…and from memory reflecting on a return to “normality” in the universe. At that time, Hawthorn had fulfilled what was seen by many as their destiny. A team that had won 10 Grand Finals at a “price” of only 5 losses. A team that won. Since then we have had to endure the abysmal 2009 and 2010 seasons and the creation of what has been dubbed as The Curse – many times losing from positions of strength. A loss from a dominant position to Collingwood in the 2011 prelim. Finished on top in 2012, hot favourites to salute…and fell short. I speculate that the manner in which Hawthorn is currently viewed would cause bile to rise in the throat of the Hawks of the 70’s & 80s – not quite hard enough, not quite tough enough when it counts. Witness the manner in which the pundits have leapt all over Freo in the lead up to Saturday….”ooooh the pressure, Freo will win”. It is my belief that we have lost the respect of the wider football community, who see us as underachievers and vulnerable. Would such thoughts have ever have been imaginable in days gone by? I think not. We need to win on Saturday to restore RESPECT for Hawthorn Football Club. Don’t really mind if you don’t like us, as long as you respect us (this is the basis of my admiration for the Cats). We need this win.

  16. Hi E.r, df and GF

    I didn’t see the game as conquering Everest. I don’t think it is the high water mark of the Hawks year. It was the high water mark (for the Hawks) of that rivalry. If anything, I think it reinstalled the belief, that on their day the Hawks can beat any comer. Also, by game’s end the Cats were spent but the Hawks had plenty of fuel. And I reckon they’ll take that understanding into preparations for this Saturd’ys GF. That doesn’t mean I’m confident. Just ready. And GF, I agree, we need this win!


  17. Grant Fraser says

    Rick – we did it. Tonight we sleep the sleep of the satisfied, the proud and the relieved. Respect. Rgds, Grant.

  18. Hi Grant

    And we sleep the sleep of the just. How exhilarating a ride was that? I’m talking 2013, the finals series, ending the curse and capping it off with the Premiership! I’ll be wearing this grin for a while, if you don’t mind. Go Hawks!

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