Geelong and Hawthorn notch up eight classics and counting

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    Over Australian football’s storied history, which two sides have had a rivalry as good as this? Not clubs, but teams of a particular era, when the competition gets personal.

    There have been some beauties. The Essendon and Hawthorn sides that battled through the 1980s. Richmond and Collingwood playing five grand finals in ten years from 1919. Carlton and Collingwood in the 1970s. Essendon and North Melbourne around the turn of this century.

    But the last few years between Hawthorn and Geelong would have to rate highly among them.

    We all know the back story. The taste of the 1989 grand final epic was still in our mouths when these two sides met in the 2008 rematch. The Cats dominated play but couldn’t finish off in front of goal. A third-quarter burst from Hawthorn rattled the favourites, and their composure was lost.

    That Geelong side famously swore they would never lose to Hawthorn again. In eight matches across four seasons since, they’ve been true to their word.

    But Hawthorn have not taken a backward step either. They feel the heat of the Cats’ intensity and respond. Every contest since that day in 2008 has been played with a physicality above anything in the surrounding season.

    And oh, how close those matches have been. Any and all of them could be included on a highlight reel.

    In 2009, Geelong triumphed by eight points in the opening round, and a solitary point kicked after the siren in round 17.

    In 2010, the margins were nine points and two. In 2011’s regular season, 19 points and five. Even the 19-point match involved a big Geelong comeback, and was in the balance until the dying minutes.

    Then yesterday’s match, again decided by two points. The only larger margin was in 2011’s qualifying final, as Geelong sealed it the top-four contest by 31.

    More remarkably, five of the eight matches have involved Geelong coming back from deficits at three-quarter time.

    By 2012 you could be forgiven for imagining that the fire might have dimmed. Not so. Don’t think that the dropped chance in 2008 doesn’t still sting the Cats. With three premierships in five years, they are talked about as potentially one of the great sides. Had they taken four, that status would be beyond debate.

    For Hawthorn, the standouts in these contests have been Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell. These are matches that suit their relentless physical style of play.

    Mitchell especially relished the first half yesterday, with retired Geelong tagger Cameron Ling doing sideline interviews for television rather than standing in the Hawk’s hip pocket.

    On paper, Hawthorn’s devastating forward has looked like it should be too much for the Cats. But while Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Cyril Rioli have all threatened to explode at various stages over these matches, the threat has always ended up suffocated by Geelong’s defence.

    Even without fullback Matthew Scarlett yesterday, Geelong were well served by the old firm of Corey Enright, Tom Lonergan, Harry Taylor and Andrew Mackie. Mackie’s chase to smother Michael Osborne’s final-quarter shot from the goalsquare was the stuff of legend.

    Hawthorn’s defence was equally determined, with Lance Gibson coming back strongly after an accidental kick to the face, and the chronically underrated Brent Guerra calmly defusing half a dozen dangerous situations.

    But even in the wet conditions, they were unable to neutralise the threat of Geelong’s talls. James Podsiadly is becoming a Hawthorn specialist, his five matches against the Hawks yielding returns of 2, 2, 6, 3, and 5 goals.

    Tom Hawkins, meanwhile, played by far his best game for the Cats, and gave them inspiration when they looked to be flagging. The big man has suddenly grown into his game.

    He flew high for two of the most athletically brutal pack marks you could hope to see, smashing opponents out of the way and plucking the wet football like low-hanging fruit. The confidence was palpable. His set shots can still be awkward, but he managed three crucial goals.

    But the real telling point for Hawkins was the development of other parts of his game. In the tense last quarter, he contested a ball outside fifty, won it at ground level, spun off an opponent, waited a split second, then dinked a pass to a teammate within goalscoring range. Later that quarter, he put in a gut-busting run to the halfback flank to provide an option for Geelong out of defence, and remained on the wing to give support in the movement forward.

    These were complexities to his game that would not have been there a season back. If Hawkins can just get his set shots from 50 metres going, he will be a scary proposition.

    But the central player, both to yesterday’s match and to the last four seasons of rivalry, was Jimmy Bartel. Bartel is the man synonymous with Geelong’s last quarter charge-downs. It is he who is most able to commit to the contest late when legs are weary and skills fade.

    His possession count since 2009 goes 28, 23, 29, 26, 28, 20, 19, 20, these in some of the most fiercely contested matches of his career, when silky stat counts are brutalised out of the game. He has kicked five goals into the bargain.

    His ten behinds might ordinarily seem below par, but in contests this tight, even those have at times proved crucial. It was he who kicked the late behind to level the scores in 2009, then another after the siren to win it.

    Yesterday, with Geelong 18 points adrift early in the final term, Bartel marked outside 50. All day players had struggled even with short passes in the high winds and slippery conditions.

    He calmly went back, weighed up the breeze, and kicked a swirling 55-metre bomb straight through the middle. The Cats believed they could get back. They did.

    One day, Geelong’s streak of wins will break. One day, the streak of classics will break too. I have to admit, yesterday I was tipping the Hawks to get up. But I see now that only a fool would do that while Bartel is around.

    As for the run of classics, that probably won’t end with the Geelong streak. The fire between these sides burns yet. What makes the Geelong run all the more remarkable is how well their opponents have played. To be none from eight just defies probability.

    Yesterday, Hawthorn were the dominant side most of the day. They had their opportunities late, too, squandering several decent chances to run in and goal. But as the Geelong side of 2008 can remind them, if you don’t kick ‘em, the rest of it doesn’t mean anything at all.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • April 10th 2012 @ 5:27am
      ChrisH said | April 10th 2012 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      Wht do we persist with Ryan Schoenmakers? He’s going backwards. Does he even know the rules?!

      • April 10th 2012 @ 9:47am
        hawker said | April 10th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Because until Gilham comes back they have limited options. Its time for people to realise Tom Hawkins can seriously play and Schoenmakers won’t be the last defender he takes to the cleaners this year..

        • April 10th 2012 @ 5:53pm
          ChrisH said | April 10th 2012 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

          No slight on Hawkins whatsoever… But Schoenmakers has had two years of solid gaffs. That’s not even an exaggeration. I began looking for his mistakes a couple of years ago and he literally screws it up whenever he goes near it. Everyone noticed it due to last years prelim, but he has a long poor record!!

          • April 11th 2012 @ 12:16pm
            hawker said | April 11th 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

            of course he’s going to make mistakes , all young players do he’s played less than 40 games all the while trying to cover the best KPFs in the game. He’s in the unfortunate position of trying to learn on the job on a team (hopefully) contending for a premiership. If he played for Melbourne, Port Adelaide or Brisbane he wouldn’t be getting a mention.

            • Columnist

              April 11th 2012 @ 6:55pm
              Geoff Lemon said | April 11th 2012 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

              Wouldn’t be getting any stick at GWS, would he?

    • April 10th 2012 @ 7:56am
      BIG BEN said | April 10th 2012 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Was a great game yesterday no doubt, more to come please.
      On the topic of great rivalries, it would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of non-Victorian teams in the Weagles and Swans’ classic battles of the mid naughties. Haven’t done the research but something like 6 or 7 matches in a row with no more than a goal separating the two.

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2012 @ 8:09am
        The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        There was quite a rivalry over those few years, with a string of close results, incuding two grand finals – but they both almost destroyed the game – thank goodness the rivalry didn’t continue!!

        • April 11th 2012 @ 5:39am
          Ironmonger said | April 11th 2012 @ 5:39am | ! Report

          Ruin the game! Rubbish!
          The Swans/Weagles matches were some of the most intense physical and mental games in history. If anything they raised the bar on how the game is played today. Victorian teams had to lose their soft underbelly to keep up.

          • Roar Guru

            April 11th 2012 @ 1:29pm
            The Cattery said | April 11th 2012 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

            yes, there is some truth to that, thankfully Geelong was able to add some attacking intent to the hardness at the ball

            • Columnist

              April 11th 2012 @ 6:54pm
              Geoff Lemon said | April 11th 2012 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

              Yes. They’ve been good to watch, after everyone was writing the obituaries for attacking football five years ago.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 8:55pm
        jabba said | April 12th 2012 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

        I got no beef with you, or your argument, BIG BEN. But please – can that be the last use of the term ‘naughties’?

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 10:47am
      Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Another classic from these two teams. Contest after contest – what a game of football on the big stage. Given the horrible weather conditions, the crowd of almost 70,000 is testament to just how much the fans wanted to see this contest.

      Hawthorn are chokers but only when it comes to Geelong, the evidence is overwhelming now.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 10:49am
      Daniel S said | April 10th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I think all the cats wins have been tainted in someway, yesterday had a few free kicks to the hawks where not payed, and delebrete rushed behind. Last year Joal selwood showed that he is nothing more than a brutal thug

      • April 10th 2012 @ 10:59am
        me, I like football said | April 10th 2012 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        Turn it up Daniel, The Hawks had the rub of the green yesterday. Joel suspension last year against the hawks was in no way thuggery. Just a bitter Hawks supporter me thinks.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2012 @ 11:03am
          The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report

          Just to add to that – there were 3 or 4 occasions in the last quarter when the Hawks could have sealed the deal, but talk about atrocious decision making!

          Grubber shots on goal from 45 metres out on the angle with a wet surface???

          • April 10th 2012 @ 11:20am
            Football Fan said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            I like a hawks fan complaining about a rushed behind… 😉

            • April 10th 2012 @ 12:38pm
              Justin Curran said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

              Like it

            • Columnist

              April 11th 2012 @ 6:53pm
              Geoff Lemon said | April 11th 2012 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

              Seconded.

          • April 11th 2012 @ 12:16pm
            Bayman said | April 11th 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

            Agreed, Cattery,

            Whoever has convinced players that running the ball along the ground from 45 metres out is to their advantage must have been a sweet-talker. I was astounded when Franklin did that – when a ball kicked in the air is much more likely to actually make it.

            Franklin’s kick, from memory slewed around and ended up ten metres in front of goal and stationary. I suspect it has more to do with “grandstanding” than any scientific reason. It just looks good. The trouble is, when it doesn’t work – cue Milne in the GF a couple of years ago – it looks bloody stupid. Perhaps it’s just Geelong that causes players to do that?

            The Hawks certainly had their chances – but losing five (of eight) after being in front at three quarter time is getting into the downright careless category. No wonder the coach just sat on the pine staring into space after the game.

            • Roar Guru

              April 11th 2012 @ 1:28pm
              The Cattery said | April 11th 2012 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              Bayman

              the other perplexing thing is that we’ve seen him slot those shots running flat chat, along the boundary splitting the sticks on the fly, as you say, a classic case of grandstanding.

              Clarko should have torn shreds out of him after the game – it was juvenile decision making at the wrong time – save your lairising for GWS!!

              • Columnist

                April 11th 2012 @ 6:53pm
                Geoff Lemon said | April 11th 2012 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

                Any chance it was to do with the strong wind coming across that pocket? The higher the kick, the more chance for it to be blown off course.

              • Roar Guru

                April 11th 2012 @ 8:04pm
                The Cattery said | April 11th 2012 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

                Geoff
                might be, but players with penetrating kicks don’t have to worry about the wind, keep it low, one bounce before the goal line, much better chances than what he tried to do.

                It grates on me because it’s just not Buddy the other day, stacks of youngish players these days try this dribbling caper from all sorts of positions when the first option should be to just drill it, plain and simple

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2012 @ 12:01pm
        Redb said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

        I’m a neutral, the Hawks did ok with the umpires especially Buddy who seemed to get anything remotely a free kick in his favour for all but one decision. Buddy also went close to staging for a few of his free kicks.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 1:10pm
        Mango Jack said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        Come on, Daniel, chin up, mate. Us Hawks supporters have to cop this one, and admit that Geelong kept their nerve and composure a bit better than us in the final few minutes. Only 2 points, and so many what-ifs. To me, a crucial factor may have been the results of last week. Had Geelong not let slip against Freo, maybe they would not have been so fired up? Did the Hawks burn too much against Collingwood last week – for a round 1 match, an epic game. It’s a long season, but it’s pretty clear already that the premiers will come from these 3 teams.

      • Columnist

        April 10th 2012 @ 6:52pm
        Geoff Lemon said | April 10th 2012 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

        I generally try to avoid complaining about umpiring, but it was definitely in Hawthorn’s favour yesterday. Franklin is turning into the league’s best ten-metre platform merchant, and there were a few Geelong frees in the forward fifty not given while several dubious ones in Hawthorn’s were. As it happened they missed most of those shots.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 11:40am
      brendan said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:40am | ! Report

      Daniel S if you dont score a goal in the last Qtr of a match you only have yourselve to blame.I was at the game and thought Hawthorn attacked via the wrong forward pocket in the last quarter.The wind there appeared very swirly and kicks out from goal were more direct than those heading towards goal.

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2012 @ 12:15pm
      The Cattery said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      Good ratings for the game yesterday:

      Seven/7mate 635k metro (Syd 27k Mel 393k Bri 32k Ade 84k Per 99k) @FoxFooty 334k national

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