Stayin’ Alive

Putting Our Foot to the Floor. For Finals. For Top 4.

Well you can tell by the way we use our walk, we’re a Finals team, we don’t need to talk.

That’s what gets Hawthorn into trouble.
When we stop walking and we start talking.
And bullying.
And sniping.
Unnecessarily fighting.
Doing all those things to ‘tell’ you we’re tough.
Getting confused that hawking our wares, is more than enough.

That’s been the interesting dichotomy of Hawthorn’s mojo, as they grew, found their feet, then covered themselves in Grand Final glory … Once & Again, under the guidance of Alastair Clarkson.

It’s the unique grammar the schoolteacher in Clarkson has been able to impart. Capitalising the ‘H’ in Hawkers, is what sets our best work apart.

People christened it ‘unsociable football’, as a way to quantify it, in a nutshell. But last night proved accepting that we musn’t succumb to limitations, brings out the best in our team, however briefly.

No matter the situation.

Last year was a curious year to be a Hawks supporter. Losing to Geelong after being in a winning position … Again. Getting thrashed by Richmond, while never getting into position to win … Again. Then playing our worst match in a decade against the Cats, and ALMOST being gifted the opportunity to win – the chance we had been too afraid to play for all night – by a monumental official interchange howler.

As Coach Clarkson said at the time, that’s not the way you wanna win. As I’ve said all along, punishment’s gotta fit the crime, but only when the officials get the call right at the time.

Either way. Right or wrong. Opportunistic or fatalistic. Those were Hawthorn’s only reverses in a season dominated by streaks of ‘getting by’ victories. It was as if the lessons we learned from the ‘reversal of glory’ in the 2012 Finals Series were, how to win big, even when we played ‘little’.

And it worked. And crushing the Swans twice at the MCG like we ‘shoulda dun’ that last Saturday of September 2012 added some flavour to our 2013 Premiership Dish.

But, for all that, even when our team had found that high gear of Premiership contention under Clarkson, there has always been a hidden taste that tickles the back of the palate, lurking on the margins of turning sour.

That hint of straight vanilla, when we know we have the football connoisseur’s ‘Madagascan’ variety, well within our reach.

That’s what last week’s capitulation to entitlement against North Melbourne, reminded me most of. It’s as if we went back in time to the Semi-Finals of 2007.

A Hawthorn team coming off an inspiring, Buddy powered, first Finals victory since 2001, getting mojo confused with biffo. And giving victory to a North Melbourne team coming off a historic hiding, at the hands of the rampaging Geelong the previous week.

There was nothing unsociable about the Hawks that day. No team-strength. Nothing remotely dangerous. Just petulance and an immature expectation of victory. Although that group matured and the system evolved to the cycle of success it currently rides, the core fallibility still resides within the Clarkson led Hawthorn psyche.

Maturity and Achievement have been able to hold it at bay, but last week showed us it lurked there, however counterintuitive that is, you may say. Just petulance no longer. It’s Entitlement nowadays.

And that’s because we summoned up the worst dregs of our competitive impulses, when they should have been at their richest, their most flavourfull. With so many injuries and so many marginal teammates having opportunities, we should have been cooking … bubbling with competitive energy. Perhaps lacking some high end polish, but still recognisably Hawks.

However, instead of reinforcing our dialogue of team endeavour, we reverted to the petulantly fractured monologues of both excellence – Jack Gunston – and overwhelming entitlement – Lake, Hodge, Lewis, Breust, Suckling, Birchall, Burgoyne, Hale, Ross, Shoenmakers, Smith, Puopolo, Stratton – with the rest on the outer of marginalised ineffectiveness.

Last night against Adelaide, in front of another 50,000 plus Adelaide Oval, hyper-populated cauldron, Hawthorn had to decide if they wanted to find it within themselves to be Hawks again.

The Premiership Defence teetered on the edge of a blade. Succumbing to the media narrative of ‘understandable, injury-plagued defeat’, would lead to the equivalent of finger-dancing with the razor sharp filetting knife, of our remaining ‘tough draw’ to close out the Home & Away season, AFTER having admitted we had arthritic joints in our knuckles.

Well may the coach say, we found our mojo. I think it’s time for us to admit, it’s not mojo we’re looking for. It’s fire. Three of our last six matches are against teams expected to beat us. Mojo means nothing to Sydney, Fremantle and Geelong.

Especially when finding it only reinforced this year’s theme. Where 2012 was about finding, then defining brilliance, only to stumble home broken and exhausted. Where 2013 was finding a way to win while playing within yourself, right to the glorious yet inevitable ending.

2014 has been about surrender … so far. We’ve palpably surrendered momentum in twelve of sixteen contests this year. Most times it’s been because it was entirely expected, something we felt entitled to. And the majority of those, it didn’t cost us victory there and then.

It just set us up to capitulate in all of our four losses.

That’s because entitlement is an insidiously intrinsic part of our Hawthorn mojo. Just like last year’s added wrinkle of playing the margins within, that needs to be brutally expunged from the Hawthorn psyche.

NOW.

The next seven weeks depend on it.

The four weeks after that will be a pipedream, unless we shed this false skin ASAP.

Hawthorn didn’t win last night because of mojo. We won because Adelaide weren’t good enough to capitalise on the wasted control, our mojo has created in 75% of our matches this year.

It’s time we remembered to be Hawks again. Not oak-aged sourpusses, nor entitled, effortless dilettantes, but hard, surgically incisive footballers, whose skill AND hardness in the contest define every victory.

We’ve gotta stop loading up, to overwhelm our opponents with one mammoth shot of momentum, then step back waiting for them to fall over. We have to remember the epitome of Hawthorn football we found – without our best team then either – against Collingwood, Round 17, 2012.

Remember? The game Clarko was so alive, so attuned to our brilliance being within our grasp, stupid mistakes because of cheap second thoughts and mistrust, from the kick-in, caused him to put a hole in the wall.

We have to ask ourselves if we are still daring enough to trust our skills, or have we forgotten how thrilling that was, having been mired in the purgatory of middle ‘game-management’, ever since we stopped daring, halfway through the final quarter of that match, with the game won.

Momentum without results is folly. Wasted effort. Useless endeavour. In otherwords, mojo. A facade. We’ve proven before at Hawthorn, we’re more than that.

ALL OF US.

Players and Coach.

Let’s put it all in the middle and die not wondering.

Or, better … Stayin’ Alive to …

Win. It. All.

Comments

  1. Steve Hodder says

    … and may Roughie start nabbing the pill and kicking straight!

  2. daniel flesch says

    Interesting rave , Gregor . And a big thank you (not) to Brian Lake for making himself ineligible to stand Tippet or big Whatsisname in the next match the Hawks have , merely just a “blockbuster top of the table clash .” And if they do make the Grand Final and again don’t play Matt Spangher like they did last year , i’ll … i’ll… do nothing at all , but will be pretty disillusioned and annoyed.
    @Steve Holder – Roughie’s doing the team thing – helping out down back and at centre bounces, where he excels . Doesn’t need to kick goals if the team still wins , another reason why he’s such a great Hawthorn asset .

  3. Steve Hodder says

    Yeah sure, he’s a team man etc; just feel better when he takes a grab and bangs ’em through. A big forward doing what big forwards are born to do. That’s me being old school! onya

  4. Gregor Lewis says

    Love Roughy lads, but we didn’t give him much of a show Friday night.

    It was hard-working designated decoy for him all night long
    He did it well.
    Hope it makes him hungry for more, much more next up vs Swans.

    grl

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