AFL Round 12 – Carlton v Hawthorn: Statistically A Perfect 10

Football is an institution to many. Like a much loved pet, it comes into our lives in different ways and becomes a part of it and we live our lives with it and around it.

For me it arrived in the shape of 1976 Scanlen’s football cards. While the hard pink chewing gum was instantly recognisable as an edible item for a 6 year old, I was drawn to the colour of the jumpers and the names of the teams and players on the cards. I became a footy fan. As a family friend (Richard Walter) was playing with Hawthorn I chose the Hawks as my team. My team won a flag straight up but I didn’t really absorb what a premiership was in 1976 – although I enjoyed the colour pictures in the Herald Souvenir liftout given to me by Richard’s father. I do vividly remember being parked in front of the TV to watch them win in 1978. Richard featured as card No.5 in the 1978 Scanlen’s series and played 2nd ruck for the Hawks in the Premiership that year before consecutive knee reconstructions ended his career at the age of just 21. For me though, my career as a Hawks fan had only just begun.

By 1979 I wanted to know more about my chosen team of Hawthorn who had won 2 flags in the 3 years I had followed them. I would borrow all the football books I could find in the Kallista Primary School library and devour the information. The history and statistics featured in Football – The Australian Way (John Craven), How To Play Football (John Dunn), Courage book of Brownlow Medal Records, League Football In Victoria 1972 (it wasn’t a very modern library) and Ron Barassi Football Book became instantly recitable items for me. I can still recite every Premier and Brownlow Medallist, if only that had been a school subject.

What I found was that I had chosen a fortunate time to start following the Hawks. There was very little mention of them in the pages of history because they had rarely been making it other than for the wrong reasons. It was all Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Melbourne, Geelong and Richmond. In the early days South Melbourne and Fitzroy were prominent. Hawthorn had won flags in 1961 and 1971 as well which at least gave us more than St.Kilda, North Melbourne and Footscray.

I read about past stars like Barassi, Skilton, Nicholls, McKenna, Whitten, Murray, Dyer, Hart, Stewart, Baldock, Bunton, Coventry, Farmer, Reynolds etc. Many champions but few seemed to come from Hawthorn. Hudson was about the only name that was mentioned alongside those. Arthur, Crimmins, Kennedy, Peck and Edwards were about the only others considered worthy. Who were Clem Splatt, Stan Spinks, Tich Utting and Butch Prior, among the few Hawthorn early mentions in the sparse records? Every club had at least 3 Brownlow Medallists – Hawthorn had none.

Then came the damning statistics. The team I followed had finished in the bottom 3 in all but 4 of their first 29 years in the VFL, including 9 wooden spoons. Imagine the last 4 years of the Melbourne FC and multiplying that by 7 – that was Hawthorn’s history 1925-53.

Statistics give bragging rights. Collingwood have 15 flags, it gives them statistical power – even if only 4 have occurred in the last three quarters of a century and few of their fans have seen more than 2. Geelong are wanting to have VFA premierships pre-1897 included for more statistical clout.

Football is a game of stats. The highest score wins…statistics. The AFL ladder…statistics. Determining great players…roll out their statistics. Analysing games we discus forward entries, tackles, pressure acts, hard ball gets etc…it’s all statistics.  Ron Barassi once famously berated Gerald Healy at the SCG in the early 80’s “Give me possessions and I’ll shut up”. Dreamteam and Supercoach – it’s all about statistics.

For me in 1979 the statistics of interest were wins/losses against teams, highest/lowest scores. You can hate a club for many reasons, I hated Carlton statistically. In football you are not envious or jealous – you just hate. Our record against Carlton at the time was amongst the worst in the VFL – 24 wins (mostly in the 60’s and 70’s), 74 losses. We had lost our first 25 encounters with Carlton consecutively (1925-38) while conversely our longest winning sequence was just 3. It is the 2nd longest losing streak in VFL/AFL history (Hawthorn also own the longest v Collingwood – 29 1925-41). Carlton had kicked a then VFL Record 30.30.210 against us in 1969. Greg Kennedy kicked a club record12 goals against us in 1972.  Our greatest win in 55 years against them had been by 60 points in 1971. We owed them some pain in return, we owed them statistically. But in the next few years, 1979-82, Carlton won 3 more flags and kept torturing us with 8, 9 or 11 goal quarters to win matches they shouldn’t have – they even did that in 1983 when we won a flag.  Winning 10 out of 11 from 1984-87 gave Hawthorn some atonement but losing the 1986 2nd SF cost us a chance of 10 in a row. I REALLY wanted 10 in a row against Carlton but by the time the 90’s came along Hawthorn had waned as a power and that dream seemed destined to be unfulfilled.

Finally, 34 years after becoming a statistical follower of the Mighty Hawks, the day – or night as it was – has arrived. 10 in a row against Carlton and interestingly also 10 in a row for the season, that is statistically well balanced. Thanks to the draw, where we usually only meet them once per year, this also becomes the longest period of time in Carlton’s history that they have failed to beat an opponent.

Now if we could only get 10 in a row against Essendon or Collingwood.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Dear Mr aussie80s

    What a wonderful summary, via statistics, of the mighty Hawks years in the competition. People talk of Hawks being arrogant. As Hawks supporters you and I know that not to be true. The steely resolve comes out of a knowing and desperation never to dwell in the cellar again.

    The immortal words of Scarlett, from Gone with the Wind, ring true for Hawks supporters: “As God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me! I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again – no, nor any of my folks! If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill! As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

    The same goes for rivalries. And it is here that your (stats based) essay captures the heartbeat, the pulse of a footy argument that is as enduring as the seasons. 10 for 10 against an old, and hated, foe and 10 for 10 this year. It felt good. It felt right.

    As an aside, another stat from the night neatly encapsulated the win as well. 15 points tipped the hat to the player who forced the win with his ‘no surrender’ approach, Mr Luke Hodge.


  2. Tony Robb says

    Here some stats 14 -4 free kicks in the second half to Hawthorn

  3. Rick Kane, bless you and your love for the Hawks.

  4. TR

    Halfway through the third quarter, Razor Ray and Mathew Nicholls tripped over the margin of error for loathsome.

  5. aussie80s says

    Rick, there is no way I, nor any Hawthorn supporter, should ever become arrogant. Allan Jeans once paraphrased some wise sage when he said “To know where you are going to you have to know where you have come from”.

    When I adopted Hawthorn in 1976 it was a fortuitous bit of timing that saw us win 7 day and 7 night flags by 1992 – 14 premierships in 17 years. They were certainly times to be enjoyed and to be thankful for having lived through it as a supporter but when I adopted Hawthorn I also adopted the 50 years of failure that preceded that.

    Our win/loss record has improved since a low around 1967 but it still sits at 879 wins to 952 losses. We have still only won around one third of our clashes with Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon – those ledgers will not be balanced in my lifetime. Even new clubs West Coast, Adelaide and Port Adelaide have a superior record against us head to head. Geelong are getting away from us again (-16) and we have never reeled in Richmond (-15).

    The 10 wins in a row was just a nice bit of balance against a club that had so often beaten us up as I take ownership of Round 4 1925 as much as I do the 1986 Grand Final. It is nice to receive a bit of sunlight breaking through the winter clouds when you have been a supporter for 38 years going on 111 years.

    And to TR, I am sure those free kicks were all well deserved and the men in green did a fine job. As Hawthorn has had the worst free kick differential cumulatively over the last 7 years it is nice to see an occasional anomaly creep in. I’ve really got to drop these stats but football really is a game of statistics.

  6. Great article ! Really enjoyed the read. GO HAWKS !!!!

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