Round 17 – Geelong v Hawthorn: The sins of their father

John Harms’s match report was first published on the MCC’s Balcony Banter blog:


It’s just after one o’clock and the train is full – of Hawthorn people! What, we’re off to a Geelong home game at the MCG? I’m with Theo who plays in the forward pocket with Fitzroy Under 10s and Evie who is a MiniRoo soccer player at Darebin Flacons. We really want the Cats to win. But the platform whisper was that Selwood and Mackie were out.


When Theo’s age, I was caught up in an era of great full forwards. We had Doug Wade who took gummy marks standing on the shoulders of Kelvin Moore and Wes Lofts in the day when full-backs were as rock-solid as the local primary school principal. Photos by snappers squatting on the boundary line made Doug look like he was jumping into the top of the old pine trees at Kardinia Park. There was Peter McKenna and Jezza and Geoff Blethyn. And of course, the remarkable Peter Hudson at Hawthorn. Every side had a full forward.


When I went to the footy in Shepparton Lemnos and Shep and Ky and Tat all had one. Footy was about stabbing a daisy-cutter into the leading full forward. Or bombing it in, expecting a specie. The full forward was The Spearhead.


Then the coaches got hold of the game and worked a few things out. Damn their intelligence!  I want Farmer to Marshall. Wade on the lead. Wade! And screwies from 55 yards.


I’m assuming Tom Hawkins has been named at full forward for Geelong, but he will play the main ‘tall forward’ role. This could see him taking a mark on the half back flank. I remember when he was a pup and trying to work out where he was supposed to be when the Cats were setting up their zoney, pressy, griddy sort of thing. He just needed to be standing in the square in some pub and bowser town up the bush with a cocky in one forward pocket and a bank johnny in the other.


But he eventually worked it out. It’s noteworthy that his most memorable performance was playing a classic full forward role in the final quarter of a Grand Final!


If Tommy’s having a spell on the pine, Rhys Stanley might go to the square, or perhaps Danger. But they’re just as likely to take a mark inside 50 running with the flight of the footy if the Cats can get the ball ‘through’ from the backline.


We make our way towards the Members – the queues are back to the statue of John Coleman (now there’s a full forward). Lots of Hawthorn scarves. And lots of Hawks colours outside of Gate 3 as well. Ah, of course, Hodgey! The Hero. But The Villain for us, albeit recognised for his qualities, save his brutality. He has been a key part in this rivalry which is now a decade long.


It’s a tight first quarter. Both sides are cautious, sweating on mistakes. Tom Hawkins gets a few chances but hasn’t got his kicking boot on today. Spooked after a couple of misses, he gathers inside 50 and tries to pass off – which makes me wonder whether he is a true full forward.


Some of Theo’s Roys’ mates are also in the Members, but they are down on Level 1, near the fence. We are high on Level 4 from where we can see the top of the Governor’s residence – and the South Pole. Or maybe it’s just that the icy wind has originated at the South Pole. Evie has her jacket across her lap and is clapping underneath it.


Somewhere along the way – it was too cold to take notes, so what happens from here may be totally out of sequence – Patrick Dangerfield and Roughie collide in the middle. The remarkable thing is that in a crowd of 70,000 we hear the impact. It sounds like two footy boots cracking together under immense force, or a champion mid-fielder breaking his leg. Or maybe it’s his knee. As Danger is on all fours the collective consciousness breathes: “Dangerfield’s gone for the season.”


As I’m reaching for my wallet to tear up the $7.50 flag ticket, he gets up and hobbles off. Please be OK.


We do have other players as Daniel Menzel shows when he slots one from the pocket and Zac Smith is having a crack in his 100th game. We’re a bit wobbly without Mackie but the other Zac (Guthrie) shows some poise, having been asked to play on Luke Breust. But really, Cats fans are looking towards the bench.


Danger disappears into the rooms. Then he’s back. He jogs along the boundary line. It’s a proppy jog. But eventually he comes back on, looking rather wounded, but trying to warm up. Must be a corky? Or is it a knee? This could be a disaster.


The Hawks poke through a few goals and are getting the upper hand. Danger goes to full forward. Tommy plays higher – ye olde Barry Stoneham role although more buffalo than Baz’s brumby.


The ball comes into the square. Danger jostles, holds his opponent out, and marks over the back. Solid. He goals.


Then Zac Touhy kicks to space in front of goals and Danger darts into it, taking a beaut overhead mark. “There was a bit of G. Ablett senior in that,” one Cats fan says. Evie is clapping vigorously.


We’re a goal down at half-time.


The third quarter is memorable. Indeed, the entire second half is. The game is competitive and entertaining but it does not reach great heights. The performance of the Brownlow medallist does. Playing like an old full forward – yes, like G. Ablett – he finds space on short, explosive leads, and cannot be beaten in body-on-body contest. In one he steps aside from the master of the jostle, L. Hodge. Hodge jostles the air, misses Danger’s body and loses balance. Danger pops around and takes a simple mark in front of his face. Theatrical.


The Cats are now on top, and are Danger conscious. As they should be. For an hour he is unstoppable. He just can’t convert. In the season opener against Hawthorn in 2016 he couldn’t kick them from 15 metres. At least now he’s hitting the post – cold comfort.


Evie is now keeping a tally of Danger’s goal and is warmed by the cheering and the clapping.


The game looks to be in our grasp, especially when Duncan finds Motlop with minutes to go, who delivers perfectly to the advantage of Danger. This should be the sealer. He hits the post. That’s 5.6.


The Hawks don’t concede, mainly because they never concede. Burgoyne, who is far more likable than Hodge, shoots a handball back to the 300-gamer who launches on his non-preferred foot and the Hawthorn crowd ride the shot home. It just clears the fingertips of the Irishman and now it’s anyone’s game. Such a quintessential Hodge moment.


How has it come to this?


Mitchell – brilliant all day, especially early – clears. Gunston marks. His squirting short pass finds Isaac Smith – who plays on. We’re right behind him and…he wouldn’t, would he! But his shot swings across the face for a point.


The siren sounds and we’ve snuck home. We are left shaking our heads in relief.


How has Danger done that? And what about the space he found!


We feel lucky to have the four points, but even luckier to have seen a classic performance from a complete footballer.


I hope Evie and Theo will remember: the day we saw Patrick Dangerfield turn back time.




The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017: the story of the inaugural AFLW season.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and 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 (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Joe De Petro says

    Nice read, John. As usual, your Nine-Lifers managed to get themselves out of a great big pickle. Not sure if Hawkins enjoyed it though, i reckon he needed oxygen after the game.

    All jokes aside, it was great for us old-timers to watch someone play old-school full forward again. if only Danger had tried a drop kick or a place kick, the illusion of the 1960s would have been complete.

  2. I was wondering when a Cats v Hawks piece would appear. There is humility in victory, but this had to be written about.

    I was initially of the view that the Cats were lucky, but my old mate PJ Flynn put me right. “No” he said. Very convincing. But he is right. The Hawks were lucky to be that close; lucky that P. Dangerfield, as wonderful as he was and is, is not G. Ablett senior. Had Ablett got on a run like Dangerfield did he would have kicked 10.2. And the Hawks would have gone down by 6 big ones.

    I was very dirty that I missed this game with “other commitments”. The replay just didn’t cut it.

  3. I don’t quite share the view of P. Flynn but signs were pretty good. Young Guthrie showed a bit – poise. Parfitt looks like he has lost a little confidence since his injury but he has skill. Blicavs solid, and asked to do a fair bit defensively by the look of it. Bews is on the edge of the best 22. Duncan was really creative at times – and reliable generally. Motlop plays in bursts – short bursts. Stanley was in the game. Menegola is finding the footy and pretty good but is a little ambitious with it at times – but you can live with that. Just needs to put away the speculator. He’s not Johnno so the cross the body left foot pass to the three metre space has a degree of difficulty beyond most.

    As always, it was great to see the hoops play, on a wintery afternoon.

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Love it JTH.
    I listened to the game on the old fashioned streamed radio while doing a Saturday cook. Such immense tension and pleasure. We actually clapped went Hodgey disgustedly took Danger’s reins and lost them just as quickly. I shared an old fashioned text chain with PJF along the way, trying to work out, as he approached the tally, what to call a bag for Danger. A rucksack – sacked from around the ruck, a Daypack, a Field bag. It was sensational and all the better for being aurally assimilated. Any chance he’ll be out til round 21?

  5. Rulebook says

    Cats folk where do you think Danger will end rating among yours and the games greats ? As is quite often the norm it has taken for him to be playing for a Vic team to be noticed and receive the accolades he richly deserves have always felt it was a farce he didn’t win at least one Brownlow while at the Crows

  6. Rulebook (and I’m serious here) if he was a good kick he would be up with the top 2 or 3 of all time. Just as Buddy would be if he could mark over head. Still, he’s not bad is he?

  7. M de H, that’s my homework for today. Also, I am cooking a massive stew tonight – peeling veges in front of the Brit Open. In the spirit of Swish, JD (was it?), and others (inc your good self).

    Rulebook, it’s amazing when you consider where the 800 players sit as elite – top fraction of all male footballers. To have someone stand out in that group is mind-boggling. We need P Flynn on that.

    Dips, I recall you lauding Cooney’s first couple of steps. Danger is similar – is he even quicker? When playing forward, Danger runs to the right places. So it is also intelligence he has. If full forward is the centre of a compass, he seems to know where to go, even when crowded. He’s making those feeding it to him look like Darren Jarman.

  8. Rick Kane says

    Beautiful piece JTH, another fantastic tussle between this era’s greatest foes.

    First, Dangerfield is all that and more. Rulebook, I don’t know if you’re just having a parochial dig but Dangerfield has been in our vision since day 1. Now, he just happens to be the standout player at the Cats. We thought that highly of him as a Crow! If his injury had seen him sit on the bench and out for the season, as Harmsy noted and every commentator, the Cats were likely out of the Premiership race.

    Unfortunately due to family matters I was not at the game (unwoohoo). I was driving home from Rosebud with a station wagon full of wood for our new wood heater (woohoo) as the game got underway. Matty Q was riding shotgun. When Danger went down he look at me and said, wow, you can’t even hide your glee. No one wants to see a champion go down (except for maybe the next three quarters). So when he came back on to the ground and then won the game as a full forward, thwarting Hawks hopes again and putting a dampener on the King of Colac’s big day, well that sucked.

    Nevermind. We have enough memories of Hodgey’s exploits and the goal he kicked to bring us oh so close.

    From what I could tell listening to the ABC it seemed like the Hawks were in with a shot. That we closed the gap late in the game to almost steal it was good without getting the cigar.


  9. JTH – Danger’s first few steps are phenomenal, especially for a bloke of his bulk. But even better is his ability to run at full belt whilst bending to pick up the ball. I haven’t seen anyone better at doing that. Try that at home – put a footy on the grass in the backyard and sprint at in in a stooped position. You’ll be visiting a physio for 6 months afterwards.

  10. Rick Kane says

    Dips, I agree and I will take your word for the example you suggest. I got tired reading the sentence!


  11. Cat from the Country says

    Thanks John.
    You wtite so well, I ferl I am there with you.
    Mind you at home in the warm, my blood pressure must have soared in the last 5 minutes.

  12. I was watching my nephew in the WAFL so have only seen the AFL360 highlights of Danger. But those pictures and your writing bring his solo genius to life.
    Like JTH I yearn for the thrills and spills of Full Forwards “kicking a bag” and reckless, exciting footy.
    I keep wondering why I am so jaded about AFL in a season which commentators keep assuring me is the “most exciting ever”. Is it my age? My other interests? Male menopause? My Eagles?
    For what its worth I reckon its the coaches. AFL is being risk managed and game planned to death. Death by a thousand clipboard and video analysts.
    Bugger the salary cap on players. Put a salary cap on football departments. Its all short term temporary edge shit anyway. Other clubs match it within a month or a season.
    MAD – mutually assured destruction of the things that made our game unique and worth watching.
    Friday night’s game between Essendon and St Kilda was unwatchable. Two coaches with 2 extras behind the ball playing ping pong between half back lines. I turned off at half time. The score line looked like a bad third division soccer match.
    The Tour de France; Wimbledon; European golf and the WAFL has consumed most of my sporting energies the last month.
    Sorry I missed a brilliant game and solo performance by Danger. But I got sick of swimming through shit waiting for pearls.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Was very much drawn into this game as I turned on during the last quarter, waiting for the Collingwood game to start.
    What a rivalry. Probably the most engrossing, genuine on-field rivalry in the game, or at least equal to the South and Western Australian derbies.
    What a superstar Danger is. Only bettered currently by the former Cat playing at the Suns.

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