The Hawthorn Hawks finished just one game outside the top eight in 2019, finishing the season in ninth position on the ladder.
Once Hawthorn dared to dream about back-to-back AFL premierships, they turned to club legend Jason Dunstall for some wisdom.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson and captain Luke Hodge paid tribute to Dunstall in the wake of Saturday’s stunning 63-point grand final win over Sydney.
It is their 12th premiership and the first time they won consecutive flags since 1988-89.
Dunstall was a key member of that powerful 1980s Hawks era, but made arguably an even greater contribution to the club as their football director.
He stepped down from that role late last year, having been instrumental in Clarkson’s appointment as coach a decade ago.
Given Hawthorn’s well-documented challenges this season, including Clarkson’s serious illness, their immediate priority was just to make the top four again.
But once they finished second in the regular season behind Sydney, it was time to dream big.
“It was only really in the last two to three weeks that it became a reality – this is achievable,” Clarkson said.
“We had a guy as influential as Jason Dunstall, who indicated to us how special it would be for our footy club and for this group of players to win back-to-back flags.
“But that’s only materialised in the last couple of weeks.”
So it was no coincidence that when the AFL asked Hawthorn who should present the premiership cup if they won, Dunstall’s name was put forward.
Hodge remembered how Dunstall sat with the players after the 2012 grand final loss to Sydney two years ago and deliberately tried to lighten the mood.
“‘Bung’ sat in there with all the boys, had a couple of beers and joked around to make sure the mood got a bit better,” Hodge said.
“(This month) he touched on it (the opportunity to win (successive flags) and just said it’s going to be a fantastic feat, considering how even the AFL is this year.
“He just mentioned what a fantastic achievement we’d have in front of us if we were able to do it – (that meant a lot) especially coming from a bloke like Bung, who everyone respects.”