Should Hawthorn defeat Carlton as expected at the MCG on Friday night, the Blues will be handed another unwanted slice of history in an era in which they’ve already had several.
A Hawthorn win would make it 11 straight victories over Carlton - equalling the longest winning streak held by one AFL team over another, along with North Melbourne’s stranglehold over Melbourne.
The Blues last beat the Hawks in round six, 2005. It was just the sixth game as an AFL coach for Alastair Clarkson, who by the time of his recent diagnosis with Guillain-Barre syndrome had racked up 222 in charge of Hawthorn.
The Hawks, who had won just one game leading up to the clash with Carlton, led this one all night until a six-goal final term from Carlton got it over the line by six points. Hawthorn would win only five games for the season, but even after this narrow loss, Clarkson could see some promising signs from the young list he was building.
''We're on the right track,'' he said that night. ''We're not getting the points at the moment that we'd like, but there are some passages of our play that are really encouraging. The tremendous heart we can take out of our performances is we've been very, very competitive.''
History would suggest he was on the money given the Hawks’ two flags, three grand finals and six finals appearances since then. But taking a look at the two sides who played that evening is an interesting exercise.
You might expect that Hawthorn, given its careful assembling from scratch of what would become the best list in the AFL, would have fielded a lot more players in 2005 who are still part of the program, while Carlton, which has had far more downs, might have turned out a 22 now a distant memory.
But there’s only three Hawks who played that night - Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell - still on the books, while there were five Blues - Andrew Carrazzo, Heath Scotland, Kade Simpson, Jarrad Waite and Andrew Walker - still listed at Visy Park. Scotland, albeit having already announced his retirement.
Scroll through the various draft selections, trades and rookie elevations made by Hawthorn and Carlton since then and you see in many cases similar opportunities and approaches, but a vast difference in results, with Hawthorn’s capacity to trade more cleverly and make better use of its lower picks and rookies perhaps the most significant difference between where the clubs now stand in the pecking order.
For example, the only stark contrast in numbers taken since that night in 2005 is Carlton’s elevation of 14 rookies to Hawthorn’s seven.
But that seven for the Hawks includes four premiership players - 2008 flag winners Stephen Gilham, Michael Osborne and Clinton Young, and current star Luke Breust - and another pair - Matt Suckling and Ben McGlynn - would have earned a premiership medallion by now but for injury. The latter with Sydney.
Carlton’s 14 has produced arguably just four who have established themselves as valuable long-termers - Sam Jacobs (ironically with Adelaide, not the Blues), Michael Jamison, Jeff Garlett and Zac Tuohy. There’s another five of that 14 still there who, as impressive as they’ve been on occasion, the Blues couldn’t put their houses on being a big part of another successful September tilt.
Hawthorn managed to snaffle Brent Guerra in a pre-season draft and make him part of its 2008 premiership side. Carlton would probably prefer to forget all but Eddie Betts of its half-dozen pre-season draft pick-ups since 2005.
In terms of trades, Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Jack Gunston, David Hale and Brian Lake were all critical parts of the Hawks’ 2013 premiership side. Perhaps Ben McEvoy will be this year.
Carlton has some trade successes, too, most obviously Chris Judd, while Lachie Henderson and Brock McLean have served the club well. Robert Warnock may still do, and this year’s class of Sam Docherty and Andrejs Everitt are showing good signs. But the Blues have more busts to live with, too. Andrew Collins, Richard Hadley and Jason Saddington have offered them little.
Carlton’s last decade and a bit has disappointed on many fronts. And as the Blues ponder being on the wrong end of some more history with another loss to the Hawks, the recruiting and list management at Visy Park since that last victory in 2005 seems another area that hasn’t been up to scratch.