This all goes back a couple of decades, perhaps to 1989. Or even earlier.

The story so far: the Hawks are too good for Geelong during the late 80s and early 90s. The Cats have a terrific team of characters who play the game with their own flair and are encouraged by the creative approach of Malcolm Blight. But the Hawks have a better side; a side which has learnt how to win with clinical efficiency, and how to spot and fix problems early in seasons, early in matches.

The Hawks generation passes, and they give way to the Eagles under Mick Malthouse. The Cats continue to rise. But the Perth side has their measure also.

Over the next decade or so the Hawks show moments of real promise, but they are not premiership material. The Cats re-build very slowly, their fans wondering whether they are destined never to win the flag.

Finally the Cats come good – superbly. They win the flag in 2007, when Hawthorn are not on the scene.

The following year they look like winning the flag again but a young Hawthorn thwart them in a fascinating Grand Final; a match where many Geelong players learnt a lot about themselves and about footy.

They leave the arena wondering what they have just done; and they are hungrier than ever before.

Sure in his belief the Cats will be haunted by the loss, Jeff Kennett says on ABCTV’s Offsiders that the Hawks have Geelong’s measure psychologically.

You’ll hear in pubs that the Cats players responded and that Chappy vowed never to lose to Hawthorn again, a statement which was about feeling and intent more than anything else. I take it metaphorically, although the weight of evidence says I should consider taking him literally.

Because since then the Cats have won every contest between the two clubs – all eight of them, including a classic semi-final last year. Those who look to the gods for understanding, and interpret the signs, are happy to attribute the run to Kennett’s mozz. (I attribute it to the ongoing presence as a player and a s a coach of Max Rooke).

The Cats win the flag in 2009, are crushed by a dominant Collingwood in the 2010 Prelim Final, and turn that around to win brilliantly in 2011. The third premiership surprises much of the footy world – but not Geelong supporters who have come to know their team well and have belief in Otto and C. Ling and Jimmy B and J. Selwood and Boris and Chappy and Scarlo a whole cast of players who the footy world underestimate. (It took them a long time to understand Johnno.)

In the summer of 2012 Hawthorn are installed as hot favourite to win the flag.

The Cats , we were told (incessantly) in the Autumn, are coming to the end of their reign. Yet in Round 3 they find a way to beat the Hawks.

Since then both teams have had their ups and downs. The Tiges beating Hawthorn by 10 goals is one of the better examples of a Hawthorn down. Hawthorn flogging Collingwood is one of the better examples of a Hawthorn up (if you rate Collingwood).

It’s true that Hawthorn have built brilliantly over the last month. Hence they are heavily favoured to win this fixture, and have been smashed with a second wave of punters’ cash to win the premiership.

They are good.

But Geelong have also registered encouraging wins. In the last two weeks they have beaten Essendon and Adelaide while missing key players. Tom Hawkins has been phenomenal, shouldering the responsibility of being the single key forward. He has played like an old key forward, and at times he has had my mind wandering back to the ‘70s and ‘80s with a classic big forward’s approach of strong leading, strong in the one-on-one marking contests and genuine leadership. I can hear Harry Beitzel, or Smooth Booth, “Hawkins” and the roar of the crowd.

The Cats have also enjoyed the benefit of strong games from Mitch Duncan and Billie Smedts, and better form from Allen Christensen. Every game for these young players is a small victory for the club.

Some players, it seems, have been cruising, but Andrew Mackie was absolutely fair dinkum when the Cats were challenged by the Crows fightback on Saturday.

And Trent West is getting into the right places, he now just has to feel the footy in his hands and believe he has the ability that produced such a fine game against Hawthorn in the semi last year. He goes well against the Hawks.

Hawthorn is a formidable opponents and their fans are buoyant. Some are saying (after the annihilation of Collingwood) they haven’t seen Hawthorn so dominant against a top side in 20 years.

They have options up forward and flexibility around the ground. Jarryd Roughead has returned as well as any Achilles-sufferer ever. However, they are still short of key backmen.

The Hawks can win this with sheer class, and the weight of scoring power. The Cats can lose it if their young’uns feel the pressure. But the young’uns have an alibi: they are young and learning, and this may free them up. They might go out and show us what they can do.

The Cats can win it if their star mid-fielders outplay the Hawks mid-fielders. Tactics will be interesting. Hawkins will again have to shine, but Harry Taylor and Trent West might go forward. Do the Cats play a second ruckman? And what of no Johnno and no Joel Corey? Does the J-Pod come back.

Consider the last five years, and then consider the last five weeks, and this is set up to be a classic. It could be a flop: Hawthorn could be at their brilliant best and run the Cats ragged.

But I reckon it will be hard-fought.

In front of an admiring crowd.

Who know their history.


Copies of The Footy Almanac 2007-11 are available at [email protected]

Twitter: John Harms @ratherbeatlunch

Other articles by John Harms

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Siamese Cat says

    I’ve come back from a foreign country specifically to see the Cats win.

    Harmsy is being a bit downbeat here. We can win this.

  2. Neil Belford says

    I have under-estimated the cats at my peril for about 18 months now – in pubs, online, in Geelong, in Barwon Heads, and on a boat in the Maldives that descended into an old fashioned shouting match complete with ad hominem attacks.

    I’m still not a believer in their future – I still say without both Bartel and Selwood in the side they are cream puffs. But I think they might unpick the Hawks tomorrow night.

    Every team in currently in the top eight bar North (and one outside) have had a run where the media has installed them as premiers. As soon as that has happened they have promptly lost. The focus of the other good teams have turned to them and their tactics and they have been unravelled. I think this week it will be Hawthorns turn. But if they do belt the Cats then I am going to install them as flag favorites myself, as finally the one backable 2012 champ.

    Collingwood and Essendon have both made the same tactical mistake against Hawthorn, and John is nearly (but not quite) suggesting that Geelong also make it. That is to pick you side and tactics on the basis that you will exploit Hawthorns backline (as opposed to their defensive skills). Do that and you are gone. Collingwood desperately needed Tarrant in the backline – and there is no point in trying to exploit a weak defence that never has anything to defend because the ball is always down the other end.

    I think to beat Hawthorn you are going to have to do something new – actually something really old. Forget the zone, forget the press, you have to play them man on man. They are moving the ball really quickly and really accurately. If Geelong starts the game with 18 taggers who run off their man as required they will win because I dont think Hawthorn have much of a defensive game. They are so skilful they dont need much space but they do need some. Deny them that and we will see if they have a plan B.

  3. West out, JTH. How does this affect our September chances?

  4. Dave Nadel says

    John, your dismissive comment that Hawthorn’s demolition of Collingwood only counts if you rate Collingwood sits poorly from a Geelong supporter. This year Collingwood has beaten Geelong twice, consequently I rate Hawthorn much more highly than Geelong as I suspect do most neutral observers.

  5. John Harms says

    Dave, it would be a brave person who rated Collingwood on their performances against Hawthorn and Carlton. Just clinging on, the PIes. So mnay holes: in the ruck, in key defensive positions and the in the general commitment of the players to the cause.

  6. John Harms says

    Cookie, West out is a worry I reckon. Mainly from the perspective of a bloke working his way in to form. INjured? Givena confidence-booster in the twos?

  7. Walls analysis in this morning’s Age, Hopkins analysis, the betting all suggest the Hawks will win. Please, let it be so. And with that, I’m outa here until about 10.30 tonight.


  8. Neil – Cats without Bartel and Selwood are cream puffs! Interesting. You’ll be proven wrong.

    The Hawks should win tonight. They almost HAVE to win, otherwise every shrink in Melbourne will be flat out next week. Therein lies the intrigue.

  9. Shrink, Dips? Or, as we like to call them, Personal Mind Trainers.

  10. Mark Doyle says

    I think the pivotal time for the current Geelong/Hawthorn rivalry is the infamous Mark Jackson fiasco game at Princes Park in the mid 1980’s; this was the game that Leigh Matthews was unfairly deregistered because of the players code of not cooperating with an VFL investigation – Matthews, Neville Bruns and Steve Hocking were not reported and told the VFL investigator, ‘I know nothing’. This then resulted in the dreaded fuzz carrying out an investigation and Matthews was derigistered. The rivalry has been enhanced by the 1989 and 2008 grand finals plus games such as at Princes Park in 1990 when Hawthorn came back from being nine goals behind, the 1991 second semi final and several close games in recent years. Comments made by Paul Chapman and Jeff Kennet have also stirred the pot..
    The game tonight should be a hard fought and close contest, as most of these games have been in the past few years and hopefully after I come out of the cinema at the Film Festival, I will hear the good news of a Cat’s win.

  11. As a neutral, I’ve found this rivalry fascinating – to the point that I’ve attended the last four games between the two sides. Great games, great players, contrasting styles, ebbs and flows. They’ve been guaranteed great footy experiences.

    In those games, I’ve found myself willing the Cats on. Not sure why. I think it’s because I’d love to see the “never lose to this mob again” ambition last for as long as possible. It’s so outrageously unrealistic, so driven by the raw emotions of that 2008 loss, you’ve got to love it for its sheer contrast with the bland professionalism of so much of the modern game.

    I suspect it might come to an end tonight but you never know.

  12. Ripsnorter says

    Another important date in this rivalry: Round 22, 1987

    More famous for demons fans but also added to the Hawks v Geelong rivalry

    At the 23 minute mark of the last quarter the Cats held a 23-point lead and it seemed inevitable that they would jump both the sides at the Western Oval and finish 5th. Hawthorn stormed back in time-on but a Barry Stoneham goal with no more than a couple of minutes seemed to make it safe. Local radio commentators even declared “the Cats are in the finals” much to the distress of the fans huddled around their radios at the Western Oval.

    The Hawks goalled again though, and with 60 seconds left the ball flew into their forward line and somehow evaded the pack waiting for it and landed in the arms of Hawk spearhead Jason Dunstall. He converted his fourth goal of the last quarter to put the Hawks in front and Melbourne into the 5th again.

  13. Neil Belford says

    Interesting that Siamese Cat aside, no Geelong supporters are prepared to actually tip Geelong to win. Rick is doing his best not to appear smug, but I know he is.

    Number of tipsters in the Age who picked Geelong – 0

    I am about to pull up stumps and go to the game to hook up with my colleagues from the surf coast and celebrate with them the forthcoming 23 point Geelong win (although if the Cats lose I wont fail to remind them that they are old and gone). I expect Clarko will be on his very best behaviour until half way through the last quarter when he smashes his laptop into a thousand pieces.

  14. Rick Kane says

    Neil, I am neither feeling smug nor am I haughty. I expect the Hawks to win but I’m also far too aware of the Cats capability and good run in recent times against us. Now, to the game …

  15. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, was one hell of a game of football.

  16. Smokie, it was heart attack material.

  17. I have been asked to act on behalf of Mr R Kane. He has this statement to make.

    “I have disappointed my family. It is so hard.”

    There will be no further comment.

    Thank you.

  18. steve fahey says

    My text to some friends at the end of the game was “If I have seen a better game of footy, I can’t remember it.”

    An astonishing game, full credit to both teams. Other than the Cats, footy was the winner, and it’s somewhat of a shame that the game coincided with Olympics because it deserved the maximum possible audience. while there have been a lot of low standard games this year due to the development teams, these two never fail to deliver.

    Interesting that, just as with Carlton and Richmond last week, the side with the long winning streak in the rivalry found a way to squeak home. I hope that trend continues next weekend when the Pies take on the Swans !!

  19. Richard Naco says

    The morning after the night before, and my eyes are still moist having just watched the replay of the last two minutes – and especially of That Kick – a couple of times.


    What a magnificent game, and what a perfect example of so much that lifts our wonderful game beyond comparison with other codes of football. That sort of finish was almost inevitable, and as much as I appreciate the ninth, I am also feeling for Hawthorn, knowing that my sheer jubilation is inevitably at the cost of their supporters just plain feeling sick in the guts.

    It’s interesting that the AFL is publishing the Twitterings of their player group, past and present, but no surprise whatsoever that to a man they are in raptures over this outstanding game.

    And Liz Cambage, herself an ardent Catter, is also in the headlines for pulling off the first dunk in any game of women’s basketball at an Olympics.

    It’s a fine fine day all round for the blessed hoops.

  20. haiku bob says

    amazing game. a lot like the ’89 GF in reverse, with the hawks getting swamped early before hauling themselves back into a game they were destined to lose. you have to admire the hunger of the cats’ old stagers.

    and selwood. you just have to admire selwood. in the last minute and a half, he was almost knocked out, got straight back up, took a contested mark in the centre of the ground and passed it laces out to hawkins for the goal. stellar.

  21. Thanks Les, but I would like to say a few words meself.

    The curse was broken sometime during the second quarter with some of the best defensive work the Hawks have displayed this season. Ted Hopkins describes the style the Cats have developed in recent weeks (which has seen them improve dramatically) as a ruck and maul approach. That stunned the Hawks in the first. The curse also seemed to hang over their game plan like a Damoclean sword.

    But they broke through the Cats game plan and trashed the curse. Then it was game on. And what a game. The Cats have rightly held the mantle of competition leader for the past 5 years. Ignore their skill and muscle at your peril. Likewise, the Hawks have been (along with Sydney) this year’s leaders on the paddock. And for three quarters that battle was on display. And it was as mighty as it was tough.

    By the end, there wasn’t a curse or psychological pull determining the outcome. It was a battle as old as the game itself. Geelong can enjoy that it won with a kick on the siren. Hawkins was magnificent. And the Hawks, unlike the previous encounters, could walk off the field heads held high. They were, in the last three quarters, brilliant. That was my take out.


  22. Rick – I have to agree. That game could enhance the Hawks’ flag favouritism. But as a Geelong man I fell in love with Geelong last – again. They are never really beaten. You can’t ask for more than that.

    The Cats may not be travelling as well as in some past years, but there wouldn’t be a side in the eight who would want to take them on in September.

    It was a marvellous advertisement for football. Recently my young boy asked me why I love footy so much. Last night I sat him through the last quarter and gave him the answer.

  23. Ripper game all night. First Friday nighter to hold me captivated all night.
    Hawkins was Careyesque and you could raffle the other 3 Selwoods and not get a quarter of Joel (sorry Scott and Adam).
    The worries for me looking at the Cats were Stokes and Podsiadly (I know he was dragging Gibson away from the contest – Earth to Clarkson – play your best defender on the best forward).
    That said the Hawks are breathtaking when they get the ball outside, run and hit targets.
    Lucky Schoenmakers is Austrian – after the GF and last night – he will need the full time efforts of Freud, Jung and the Vienna school of psycotherapy to get him on the paddock against the Hawks again. By the second half he was mentally destroyed (shades on Steve Waugh’s captaincy approach) more than physically.
    The Olympics have been a yawn fest (I am doubtless jaundiced by 2.30am finals in WA). Last night at the MCG was everything that the theatre of elite sport has to offer.

  24. Neil Belford says

    Ahem – rest of the competition – the bar has been set. Good luck.

  25. Older, Slower, Better than ever…

    Look out everyone. The Cats are coming!

    Fasten your seatbelts, we’re in for one hell of a ride!

Leave a Comment