Footy Fix: Will the Kennett curse continue?
Rohan Connolly previews round 15 of the AFL season, including Hawthorn's clash with Geelong at the MCG on Saturday night.PT5M24S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2pbnh 620 349 July 3, 2013
The laws of probability suggest that if you toss a coin and continue to call tails, sooner or later you’re going to get it right. Which is how Hawthorn must feel when it comes to playing Geelong.
A string of 10 successive defeats at the hands of the same opponent would ordinarily suggest a lack of quality compared to the victor, or some sort of inherent flaw or weakness. But aside from the final result, one of the AFL modern era’s longest streaks has hardly smacked of dominance.
Source: Champion Data.
Indeed, in Geelong’s 10 wins over the Hawks since that infamous upset on grand final day in 2008, its average winning margin is just 8.6 points. No fewer than eight of their meetings have been decided by single-figure results.
Five have been by less than a goal, including two decided after the final siren – Jimmy Bartel’s point in round 17, 2009, and, of course, Tom Hawkins’ famous long bomb from outside the 50 late last season.
The other recurring theme has been that at some stage of nearly every one of these epic clashes, Hawthorn has looked in control.
Hawthorn v Geelong. Its always willing, always thrilling. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
On five occasions, the Hawks have blown leads of 20 points or more. They were five goals clear of the Cats in the second term in round one this season – the biggest lead they’ve ever held over Geelong since the 2008 grand final.
Some of the advantages they’ve managed to lose late, too, as in the Bartel game of 2009, when they led by 28 points two-and-a-half minutes into the final term.
Then there’s been the odd reversal of fortune, with the Cats making the running and the Hawks flying back. Never a better example of that than arguably the best of the entire stretch of classics, round 19 last year, when Geelong led by 51 points after kicking the first goal of the second quarter.
The Kennett Curse
Kennett's Curse is still alive as Hawthorn walk off the MCG after their tenth consecutive loss to Geelong. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Hawthorn promptly kicked 15 of the next 21, and after behinds to Luke Breust and David Hale, led by eight points before a Hawkins’ double yet again ended their hopes of breaking the "Kennett Curse".
As a rule, however, it’s been the Hawks dominant early, and the Cats charging back at the finish.
In their 10 clashes since the grand final, first quarters have been split evenly 5-5, Hawthorn is at its best in the second term where it leads 7-1, third quarters have gone the Cats’ way 6-4, with Geelong finishing off much better, winning eight of 10 final terms.
Whatever the Cats are doing at the half-time break appears to be working,
This year’s stats indicate there’s every chance that pattern will repeat itself on Saturday night. Hawthorn is the equal best starting team of 2013, having won 11 first quarters and conceding only two, while the Cats have lost more opening terms than they’ve won.
It’s the third quarter that has been Geelong’s specialty. Whatever the Cats are doing at the half-time break appears to be working, having won 12 of 13 third terms, the next best in the competition just nine.
Brian Lake certainly shapes as a key to this meeting. In recent times, Geelong’s forward targets have caused Hawthorn plenty of grief – James Podsiadly kicking six goals against them midway through 2011 and another five in the first clash last year, Hawkins the man in the return bout with another half-dozen.
Hawthorn's Lance Franklin doesn't agree with Geelong's Joel Selwood. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
But the two biggest constants in these bi-annual contests are hardly unexpected, namely Geelong skipper Joel Selwood and Hawthorn midfield veteran and skipper of that 2008 flag Sam Mitchell.
Mitchell has played in nine of the 10 clashes and polled Brownlow Medal votes in four. Selwood has played all 10 and similarly polled on four occasions, his game in the 2009 clash won by Bartel after the bell arguably the best single performance of a glittering career.
Selwood almost single-handedly dragged Geelong over the line that afternoon, with 42 possessions, 11 tackles and nine clearances, so omnipresent this observer awarded him a perfect 10. His disposal average across the entire 10-game spread is a more-than-handy 28.
No-one cares any more about the veracity of the Geelong pledge, or the sincerity of the Kennett Curse. They have passed into footy folklore. Photo: Paul Rovere
Mitchell was a costly absentee in the return bout of 2010, but has been phenomenally consistent in the nine games in which he has appeared, averaging 31 disposals, and only twice in the nine games failing to rack up at least 29.
It was the same pair again who were the leading ball-winners for their teams in round one, Mitchell on fire as the Hawks built up their five-goal lead shortly before half-time, Selwood directly involved in the first three goals after the long break. He kicked one himself, initiated another with a typical, bullocking centre clearance, and hit Hawkins on the chest for the third leg of the trifecta.
Geelong led by 21 points with only 10 minutes to play before the Hawks had them sweating again with a couple of late replies and more missed chances.
Again, for Hawthorn, the coin had come up heads. With more consistent form, and one Cyril Rioli set to return, probability says it can’t happen an 11th time.
But perhaps the one certainty we can conclude based on this purest of football rivalries, is that whatever happens, it’s going to be tight, and it’s going to be very, very good to watch.