He arrived at Geelong with the breeding, the build and a boom. But Tom Hawkins had often been maligned and regarded as inconsistent and an underachiever – until a heavy responsibility landed on his shoulders in the AFL grand final at the MCG on Saturday.
With The Cats lost full-forward James Podsiadly in the second quarter, Hawkins became Geelong’s and main target, responding with three third-quarter goals that helped swing the momentum the way of his team.
Hawkins agreed his grand final performance went a long way toward repaying Geelong for the faith and patience it had placed in him.
“It was well documented, I was playing pretty ordinary footy,” Hawkins said.
“But Geelong has shown a lot of faith and I hope I can keep on doing my bit.”
Hawkins opened the scoring in the second half, kicking a goal off the ground that gave Geelong the lead three minutes into the term.
The 23-year-old had to do the same nine minutes later after Collingwood had again edged in front and he then put through the final goal of the quarter to give the Cast a three-quarter time lead they maintained to the final siren.
He was also a part of the cheekiest goal of the grand final when he took a mark 20m out only to hand the ball off to Steve Johnson who booted one of his signature round-the-corner efforts to seal the victory.
As important as Hawkins’ contribution was, he refused to get too carried away.
“I don’t think I played a key role,” he said.
“I’m just glad I could play a small part in a great win today.”
Hawkins also acknowledged the frustration he’d provided in his five years since arriving at Geelong where his father, Jack Hawkins, had been one the Cats most celebrated players.
“Without the support of the coaching staff and my teammates, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
In particular, he thanked team-mate Cameron Mooney who missed the grand final after being overlooked for the finals series.
Mooney took Hawkins aside in the rooms at half time for a chat that proved vital to Geelong’s success.
“Moons has been unbelievable, he’s helped me a lot throughout my career,” he said.
“He’s one of the reasons I’ve been playing well the last few weeks.
“He just said to compete hard and really present now that Pods is down.”
A proud Jack Hawkins was one of the first to congratulate his son – and to offer some explanation for his previous form lapses.
“He found it difficult trying to play in the ruck as well as forward,” Hawkins snr said.
“He just couldn’t cope with it.”
A mid-season break and a spell in the reserves turned Hawkins game around, and he hasn’t looked back.
“They brought him back as a permanent forward and he’s just gone on from there,” Hawkins snr added.
But he left room for further improvement in his his praise of his son.
“Today he could have torn the game apart, and he nearly did,” Hawkins snr said.
“But he had a big impact, that’s for sure.”