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Hawks and Cats a rivalry to savour

THERE can't be a genuine fan of AFL who isn't salivating over the prospect of another epic between Hawthorn and Geelong at the MCG tonight, whatever their club allegiance.

Over the past five years, this has become a joust which seems to transcend parochial loyalties, never any sense of a likely outcome, only the certainty that we're going to be treated to a gripping contest; tough, tight and always seemingly very close.

Hawthorn's massive upset of the Cats on grand final day in 2008 created the template, and Geelong's determination and success so far in making the Hawks pay at least some sort of price for stealing a premiership from its grasp has enshrined the legend.

They've been gladiatorial bouts, usually among the most physical contests of the season, yet never short on skills or individual brilliance. And in eight games since the 2008 grand final, which have been decided by an average of just nine points, always full of drama. It's a classic modern-day rivalry, the natural successor to the series of struggles between Sydney and West Coast from 2005 to 2007, which similarly kept an entire football public enthralled. And in that sense instructive.

For those battles and the ongoing story that Hawthorn and Geelong provide have been football rivalries in their purest sense. They don't need dressing up in history, cultural legacies or tales of yore to keep them alive. It's the football that does the talking all on its own. And plays a critical role in helping shore up the credibility of an AFL competition that needs it like seldom before.

The league of the 21st century is in some ways a curious beast, a complex mix of the old and the shiny and new, the contrast never more stark than in 2012 with the introduction of a second new franchise in as many years.

While such clubs as Collingwood and Carlton have been part of the framework for 116 seasons, there's (counting Sydney) eight clubs, nearly half a league, which have been in existence for 25 years or less.

The West Coasts and Fremantles, the Crows and Port Adelaide have their own histories and cultural reference points, their own stories to tell. And no longer can the AFL's spruikers rely on a great portion of their public to be held as transfixed by the history of old-world rivalries such as Collingwood's form of class warfare with Carlton, or the territorial battles between the Magpies and Richmond over the long stretch of Hoddle Street and Punt Road.

Yet there's been plenty of times over the last couple of decades as those various combatants have resided at opposite ends of the ladder that history and geography have been about all that have prevented their clashes from sliding into irrelevance, even in this town.

West Coast and Sydney, meanwhile, was a rivalry born out of nothing more than a series of incredibly tight and gripping games of football, several of them coming at the pointiest end of the season. So consistently dramatic were the storylines that even the most parochial of Victorians couldn't help but be drawn in.

And that is precisely the appeal of the Hawthorn and Geelong clashes of today, even to those outside this state's borders. It's all about the football. Again this week, there's been a noticeable absence of brinkmanship or psychological sparring, the mutual respect between the Cats and Hawks obvious.

The talk has been all about Lance Franklin's availability, James Podsiadly's return, the impact of Joel Corey's absence. The fact that Hawthorn has led at three-quarter-time in five of those eight straight, albeit narrow, losses. The recollections about Jimmy Bartel's post-siren winning behind in 2009 and that amazing last-quarter slog in the wet on Easter Monday this year.

The only game played on a public holiday, that match had most football fans hanging on the edge of their seat. Tonight will be the same. Hawthorn and Geelong is a rivalry for all fans to share, and very much a rivalry for the new football age.


  • Well said Rohan. Put Walls back in his box.

    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 6:44AM
    • I agree that this article is much more interesting than Robert Walls'. However, it fails to mention the fact that if it was the entire Hawthorn team vs. just Paul Chapman, the result would still be quite tight. He and Jimmy Bartel will play out of their skins tonight, as usual, and give us a great contest!

      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 10:44AM
  • Can't wait for another epic. This time however I think the Hawthorn boys will tip it their way. they have been irresistable the last 10 weeks and deserve to lift Kennett's curse once and for all. Geelong's ageing warriors will no doubt stand up again and the result as ever will be in doubt until the final siren. Bring it on

    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 7:26AM
    • @robertito Youre right about Chapman & Bartel playing like possessed mad-men, who will win at all costs against the HAWKS. You can add Selwood to that list as well. As a Hawk supporter I have been waiting to see the self-same fanaticism in any of our players to do the same to Geelong. Sadly since the days of Dermie and Dipper we lack such Characters in our team. Will be waiting tonight to see if anyone puts their hands up for us. Should be a ripping game. If we play our best I reckon we will get your boys this time. Just hope that Cats dont have 9 lives!!!

      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 2:18PM
    • For people interstate, Hawthorn v Geelong is a very appealing Friday night game. Too often we have to suffer mediocre Friday night games featruring over-hyped but underperforming Victorian teams like Carlton, Essendon and Richmond - not to mention the capable but tediously over-exposed Collingwood every second week. Would much prefer to seen the insane intensity of a West Coast v Fremantle derby on TV tonight though.

      Crow Boy
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 2:45PM
  • Spot on Rohan. My only difficulty in all of this is I'm a Mad Hawk! These games threaten to end my existence prematurely! I was at the Easter Monday slip up and hadn't been so gutted since the Hawks blew the '84 granny. Safely back in Kununurra for tonight's game I'm still having kittens (errrr) about tonight. Go on all you footy purists - lap it up tonight while the supporters of both clubs hunker down for 120 minutes of pain. And it can only be sweet pain for one lot of fans. Doh!

    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 8:36AM
    • As a Cats supporter, I totally agree! I'm not sure I enjoy these games so much as I endure them. Geelong don't make it any easier by so often being behind at three quarter time. This game is especially important because I really believe that if we lose to the Hawks tonight, the dynasty is over. If we win, there's a chance (not a good chance, but a slim one) that Geelong might win a premiership this year or next.

      With regard to the rivalry as a whole, the problem for the Cats is that no matter what we do, there is only one way to undo the pain of the '89 and '08 grand final defeats, and that's beating the Hawks in a grand final.

      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 10:30AM
    • Dooolander, you describe my feelings to the letter. The absolute agony of another win that got away is made even worse by the shear number of Cats fans that seem to come out of the woodwork and target their venom on me. I'm hoping to be rejoicing this time around because I don't think I can afford anymore counselling.

      Ted Kaboom
      Malvern East
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 10:51AM
    • What a great comment, Doolander :)

      I am so nervous about tonight, w-a-a-a-a-y more than any other game we will play before finals. The quiet confidence I feel deep down that maybe tonight is finally the night is being overshadowed by the terror that what if it bloody well isn't? Another loss to the Cats when it's time (insert 1972 Labor Party advert here), and I will be looking around for a sharp metal object to impale myself upon :)

      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 11:31AM
    • agree robertito, these are endured, not enjoyed, contests; but the pain of the gf defeat will never be erased - any future gf victory over the hawks will be its own contest. that is why the enduring of these clashes is nonetheless a bizzarely pleasant affair, like masochism played on a grand scale.

      tie me up and may the cats retain their dominance!

      samuel coleridge
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 1:40PM

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