Trailing by 23 points at halftime of their AFL semi-final against Port Adelaide, Geelong needed someone to kickstart a fightback and it came from an unlikely source.
Troubled by a back injury that forced him to be a late withdrawal from last week’s side to play Fremantle, 105kg forward Tom Hawkins had no impact in the first half of Friday night’s clash with Port.
But a mark and goal in the first 69 seconds of the second half lifted the spirits of the 2012 club champion and his teammates, sparking a five-goal third term and five-goal fourth term as the Cats came from behind to win 13.18 (96) to 12.8 (80).
A beaming Hawkins was mobbed by teammates and added a second goal later in the third quarter.
“It’s funny, Hawkins marking early in the third quarter and then kicking the goal, you could see the way our players reacted to him,” Geelong coach Chris Scott said.
“He’s such an important player for us and the boys really rallied around him.
“I’m not saying he was the spark necessarily but you could see that we got going a little after that.”
Scott says Hawkins’ day-to-day fitness is difficult to predict.
“The medical staff are confident that he’s good enough to play, but one day they’re really confident and the next day he pulls up sore for no reason,” Scott said.
“It’s something that we need to keep monitoring but if he gives us what he gave us tonight then I think he’s a valuable part of our team.
“How close is he to 100 per cent? It’s impossible to say but I wouldn’t like to play on him deep at full forward.”
Hawkins said post-match he felt fantastic.
“It was as good as I could hope for,” the 25-year-old said.
“I was really excited to get back out there.
“We’re doing everything we can and we have done all year.
“As frustrating as it is for the fans, I can tell you it’s twice as frustrating for me.”
He likes his chances of playing next Friday night.
“I’d like to think so. I felt great, so hopefully,” the big forward said.
Geelong defender Josh Hunt says Hawkins is vital to Geelong’s forward structure.
“We know that he’s not quite right at the minute but … he does take a quality defender every week,” Hunt told Radio 3AW.
After a career-best 62 goals in 2012, Hawkins has booted 48 this season including five in his past four games.
His performance against Port included eight disposals and two tackles.