AFL Qualifying Final – Hawthorn v Geelong: Let It Rain

Let it Rain.       

Second Qualifying Final – Hawthorn v Geelong, M.C.G 5.9.2014.    Paul Campbell.


Rambling Melbourne’s city laneways before the 2014 Qualifying Final, I stumbled on a Burger place where they make ‘em fresh and old-fashioned. The point of difference drew me in. Watching my chicken fillet hit the grill and the slice and dice of fresh produce. I knew exactly what I wanted, high quality, freshly different… and Fillet Meow.

A Preliminary Final shot at home sweet home was paramount, but my concentration was on the archrival nonetheless. 3-meetings and less than a year ago we buried their black cat bone and mojo hand. Like waking from 11 nightmares, or was that the dream I would rouse from tonight?

“Your Burger’s ready”.

As I ate, I reflected on the misery both teams had caused each other. A former Politician gaffed and there was resultant boom in dark arts spells and curses. Whether you believe in that sort of thing or not, slight home and away wins ran on and on. I was at most of the 11, heard their song and saw more dancing in the aisles than I did at ‘Jersey Boys’. Meanwhile, I staggered from the ‘G as though hit violently to the testicles.

(Sh)It happens.

It happened to Rafael Nadal when he lost 7-straight matches to Novak Djokovic.

“I lost because I was playing against the best player of the moment. When you play against these players and they are playing unbelievably, the normal thing is (to) lose. My experience says this level is not forever. Even when I was last year winning three grand slams, my level of last year is not forever. Probably the level of Novak today is not forever. I’m gonna be here fighting all the time, waiting my moment. I understand the sport like this. When one player is better than you, at this moment, the only thing you can do is work, try to find solutions, and try to wait a little bit for your time.”

(Spanish Tennis Champion, Rafael Nadal after losing the 2011 Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic).

Then, in Monte Carlo, on 23 April 2012, Nadal finally beat Djokovic to win the Masters. “It was very important to break the streak,”[1] he said afterwards. Since then, Nadal 6 wins to 5. Good rivalry.

What of the Hawks? Clean hands surely. We had a modest 2 victories in 6 years. Timing’s everything. Our first win started it; our second made it an ex-hex.

Hardline supporters of both teams were entrenched in their positions, ‘they’ had their total tonnage of wins; ‘we’ had won the ones that mattered. Tonight was another one that mattered.

Two weeks ago (Round 22) I had withdrawn from battle with a virulent flu. It meant I had seen one ‘live’ victory in 5 years. Mind you, that ‘one’ was one of the ones that mattered; the 2013 Preliminary Final.

Besides, the 23-point-Hawthorn-win in Round 22 had been thrown into question. No one seemed to know what it meant? Had they chucked it? Would you announce it if you did? Or was this the classic double fake?

At the MCG with Hugh, I watched it start like many others before it, fast and disorderly. Bartel intercepted a Smith handball, on to Johnson, who overcooked to Motlop. Then we were overcookin’: Hill missed Roughead, who had to go ’round the corner. Point.

Seconds later the vibrant Hill went deep. Breust was onto Mackie’s spoil, but an undemanding pass to Spangher prompted more groans.

We had settled second.

Selwood kicked the first and their usual suspects were amassing possessions, Selwood, Bartel and Johnson on a bionic foot. They were off and backing themselves to win the footy while their teammates went ‘vamoose’, like alley cats. Bartel kicked their second and they spent the next few minutes in attack.

Selwood won a high tackle, while Burgoyne queried if he had possibly leaned into it? Hawthorn fans around us had no doubt. The Hawks had not produced much to that point, until Roughead, on the end of loose ball, snapped truly.  It settled Hugh and I. Lewis and Puopolo hit the scoreboard, now we were running and using the ball better. Burgoyne seemed to tread water, waiting for Smith to go to a precise square metre of turf and then hit that target.

Quarter time: Hawks 3.4, Cats 2.1.

Early in the second, Gunston couldn’t get one to stick. Sure enough, it went up the other end for a Bartel goal. Already it felt like making the most of your momentum would be the difference. Hawkins kicked a point. The big fella looked a little off, while Brian looked self-assured. The hard-running Selwood had another goal.

The Hawks responded with consecutive marks; Mitchell over Mackie and Smith over Duncan. Smith goaled. Better was to come. A deep forward entry fell to Puopolo for a brilliant, roving effort. Dureya, took the ball off Motlop’s boot and the Hawks launched a counter-attack. Hill to Sewell and the 200-gamer weighted one to the goal square, for Gunston.

Predictably, momentum skewed in the final 3 minutes. Murdoch on the end of a bobbling ball and then Walker marked, as Gibson strangely stayed out of the contest. Scores were level at half time. On evidence seen, felt we should have been a couple up.

When Hale goaled in the opening minute of the 3rd, we had the re-start I wanted. Selwood responded with a running goal (his 3rd), but Smith and Hill and were starting to match him.

The Hawks missed chances and then Hawkins was gifted a dodgy free kick. Hodge answered and then Hill and Smith combined again, to Mitchell who lobbed a ball into 50. Geelong defenders flubbed it, allowing Gunston to cut through traffic with a fine goal.

Hawks by 7 (late in the 3rd) and the heat was on. Lake outpointed Hawkins and Breust harried Mackie, a quick transition to Sewell, who went long to Gunston. We were on top and they were hanging on. Hawkins threw a jumper-punch in frustration. Taylor had been moved forward, which meant we’d separated a defensive unit. Geelong looked vulnerable. A penetrative kick from Gibson unnerved Rivers, who conceded a free kick to Roughead.

In the good read, “Playing to Win” by Michael Gordon[2], there is a passage about a meeting of Hawthorn players after the 11th (and final?) loss in the sequence to the Cats. In the meeting, Hodge asked the players, ‘What would the Geelong players be saying about their counterparts, behind closed doors? What would Chapman be saying? Or Johnson?’

As Roughead walked in, I noted an adjacent Johnson was pretty animated. On the replay later, I lip-read Johnson shouting, “You’re a fucking choker”. Roughead missed, but would have the last laugh. A sledge is just a sledge. In Major League Baseball, they talk with their hands over their mouths.

Three Quarter Time: Hawks 10.8, Cats 8.6.

In the final quarter, Breust snared an early one to extend the margin to 3 goals. The margin hovered there for nearly 10 minutes and I was twitchy. Needed one more.

And then Burgoyne flowing from Cats, treading water again, hit Roughead. I thought ‘This is it’… probably.

Confronted with a tricky shot from the boundary, Roughead kicked like a connoisseur. The roar from Hawthorn fans was a beautiful thing, closely followed by (as Tim Boyle put it), ‘a collective sigh of Hawthorn people from the terraces’[3].

We had ‘em!

And the memory that goes with that is the run. Burgoyne, Hill, Lewis and Langford took over, running away from their opponents, who looked… beaten. It reminded of boxing, when a Heavyweight Champion falls. In a few seconds, they look entirely different.

Joe Layden wrote of it, in his book on the Tyson and Buster Douglas fight in 1990.

“It was shocking, that’s all I can say,” remembered Catskill Daily Mail reporter Paul Antonelli. “Here is a guy who is invincible, and he’s on the canvas with his mouthpiece out, crawling around…”? In the midst of the post-fight chaos, Aaron Snowell climbed through the ropes and walked calmly to his fighter.?“What happened?” Tyson asked.?“You got knocked out,” Snowell replied.?Without saying another word, Tyson let his head fall onto Snowell’s shoulder… “It’s okay, man,” Snowell whispered[4].

It didn’t rain but it should have, there should have been a monsoon deluge to wipe the slate clean. Tables had turned. Perhaps we had fought and hung in, like Nadal, or the law of probability is good law again, or the dark arts dot-com bubble burst; whatever came before doesn’t matter now. Let it rain.


“Let it rain, let it pour, let these skeletons darken my door. Lay the past in the graveyard with things that can’t hold me no more. Breathe in deep, let it out, wash the bitterness out of your mouth…”

(the Zac Brown band, “Let it Rain”. The Grohl sessions – Vol 1, 2013.)




Hawthorn        3.4      6.5      10.8      15.14    (104)?

Geelong          2.1      6.5      8.6        10.8      (68)

Goals  Hawthorn: Lewis, Gunston 3; Roughead 2, Puopolo 2; Breust, Smith, Hodge, Hale, Langford

Geelong: Selwood 3; Bartel 2; Murdoch, Walker, Hawkins, Blicavs, Johnson.

Best    Hawthorn: Mitchell, Hill, Smith, Shiels, Birchall, Lewis,Hodge, Gunston, Lake.

Geelong: Selwood, Bartel, Guthrie, Stokes, Horlin-Smith, Enright.

Umpires          Troy Pannell, Ray Chamberlain, Mathew Nicholls.

Crowd 74,753

Our votes      Mitchell (Haw.) 3, Hill (Haw.) 2, Selwood (Gee.) 1.

[1] Briggs.S, “Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win eighth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title”,

[2] Gordon. M, “Playing to Win: the inside story of Hawthorn’s journey to an 11th premiership”, Slattery Media Group.

[3] Boyle. T, “Hawks and Cats: man versus the machine”. The Age 6.9.2014.

[4] Layden. J, “The Last Great Fight”. St. Martins Griffin. New York 2007.

About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.


  1. Good write up PC

    It’s nicely balanced between the challenger’s position (Nadal) and the Champ hitting the canvas.

    I especially liked this view: “What of the Hawks? Clean hands surely. We had only a modest 2 victories in 6 years. They say timing’s everything. Our first win started it. Our second made it an ex-hex.”

    Whatever else it may or may not have been we can agree that it was a ripper of a win.


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