There’s only one round left in the 2019 AFL season, yet – particularly near the top of the ladder – things are still pretty volatile and several clubs have huge gaps between their best or worst scenarios depending on how the cards fall in Round 23.
Easter is one of the best times of year.
Chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, an overwhelming amount of food at family gatherings – and another chapter in the Geelong vs Hawthorn story.
There are few greater modern day rivalries than the Hawks and the Cats.
No matter their form, and where they sit on the ladder (although it’s usually in the top eight) these battles often reach thrilling heights and these two sides have delivered some of the best matches in the game’s history.
For those who are curious about form, Geelong started the round on top of the ladder despite a four-point loss to the Giants last weekend.
Geelong have been playing a high-pressure style of football, suffocating the opposition whenever they get their hands to the ball. Last weekend the Giants beat them at their own game, winning the tackle count 66 to Geelong’s 57.
Despite the loss, Geelong has been very impressive across all four games and have many of us questioning why we wrote them off prior to the season.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said about their rivals.
Last weekend Hawthorn lost its second game of the season, this time to a fast-finishing St Kilda.
The Hawks pushed out to a 26-point lead in the third quarter, but a barrage of injuries put a stop to their scoring and they watched the Saints claw their way back in front and claim the four points.
Hopefully for the Hawks this clash follows a similar script to the last time the two teams met (Round 21, 2018 at the MCG).
A goalless opening quarter by Hawthorn was followed by a goalless second quarter by the Cats and despite finding themselves 20 points down at the main break and 26 down in the last, Geelong was never really out of the game.
A persistent Geelong outfit booted three goals to one in the final quarter but it wasn’t enough, with Hawthorn running out 11-point victors.
Patrick Dangerfield amassed an enormous 39 touches, eight clearances and three Brownlow votes.
Gary Ablett was awarded two and 2018 Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell received one.
The Hawks will be without their star midfielder, along with a host of other players on a lengthy injury list. Another big name was added to that during the week as James Frawley suffered a hamstring injury against St Kilda and is expected to miss three weeks.
The Hawks do regain Jaeger O’Meara who is fresh off signing a four-year contract extension, while Kaiden Brand and Mitchell Lewis come into the side for David Mirra and Jonathon Ceglar.
Geelong has made one change, resting rising star Charlie Constable and bringing in Cam Guthrie.
There’s no doubt Hawthorn has their work cut out for them and if they’re going to repeat their efforts from last season, they’ll need to put some work into Geelong’s scoring power.
At the beginning of the round, the Cats were second in the competition for goals kicked and first in the competition for efficiency inside 50.
And they like to share the load up forward.
Tom Hawkins is Geelong’s leading goalkicker with just nine goals to his name so far this season.
For a side with proven scoring power in 2019, plenty of players are contributing.
If there’s one man that can put it a stop to it, it’s big Ben McEvoy.
His work rate has been up not only in the ruck but around the ground and his season averages have Geelong’s Rhys Stanley covered.
McEvoy is averaging 15 touches, 29 hit outs, 6.5 marks and a goal a game, just to name a few.
While Stanley has had a good start to the season, McEvoy is having a noticeable impact.
In his 150th game, Chad Wingard too could prove a difference for the Hawks if the excitement machine can replicate his efforts against North Melbourne in round three.
Should he bring his game-breaking best to the G this afternoon, he could be key in a Hawks victory.
What is for sure is this duel, like most before it promises to be an Easter Monday special.
For me, it’s Geelong by eight points but anything could happen in this weekend of upsets and between these two great rivals.
You can stream all of today’s AFL action between Hawthorn Hawks and Geelong Cats on Kayo with a 14-day free trial.