Hawthorn have been spoilt for finals victories over the years, but they've also had some great home and away wins. In the second instalment of this club-by-club series, we nominate the Hawks' five best of the modern era.
1. Hawthorn v St Kilda (round 12, 1999, Waverley)
It was the second-biggest comeback in the history of league football, the Hawks no less than 63 points in arrears four minutes into the second quarter, St Kilda having kicked nine goals to one in the first term, and 11 of the first 12. Robert Harvey and Nathan Burke were having a picnic early for the Saints, Stewart Loewe and Barry Hall strong up forward. But Hawthorn, still trailing by 44 points at half-time, unleashed a 10-goal third term, with Paul Salmon in charge in the ruck and Nick Holland and young key forward Nathan Thompson converting everything. St Kilda lost their cool and became undisciplined as the Hawks got more than a sniff. And another three goals to none in the last term clinched the deal, Holland putting his side in front for the first time 10 minutes into the final quarter, the Hawks in the end winning by 13 points.
Paul Salmon celebrates with teammates in that 1999 victory. Photo: Joe Armao
2. Hawthorn v Geelong (round 6, 1989, Princes Park)
Hawthorn and Geelong were staging epic battles well before the past 10 years or so, and this game at Princes Park early in 1989 might have been the best of the lot. A shootout that produced no fewer than 51 goals, the equal fourth-highest aggregate score in league history, it saw the Cats race away to a huge lead with eight goals in the first term and nine in the second. Gavin Exell, who'd finish with nine, was the star up forward, with Mark Bairstow and Gary Ablett on fire. Just before half-time the Cats led the reigning premiers by 56 points. The move of Hawks defender Gary Ayres to the centre proved pivotal. Hawthorn kicked the first six goals after half-time, still trailing by 19 points at the last break. But Ayres, Gary Buckenara and John Platten ran amok in the last, and Hawthorn's 10-goal final term wrested an amazing victory from the Cats by eight points.
The epic battle at Princes Park.
3. Melbourne v Hawthorn (round 22, 1996, MCG)
With the Hawks and Demons seemingly destined to merge for the following season, the two clubs met in the final round. Hawthorn led by 19 points at half-time after an amazing six-goal term from Jason Dunstall, who finished with 10. But Melbourne responded with the first five goals of the second half. A see-sawing last quarter saw the Demons hit the front, then Hawthorn steady, Dunstall kicking his 100th goal for the season, causing a ground invasion and a five-minute delay. David Neitz was similarly heroic for Melbourne, his fifth and sixth goals leaving the final margin just one point in favour of the Hawks. And if the already emotionally charged crowd of 63,000 needed any further revving up, they got it when Hawks veteran Chris Langford took off his jumper and waved it passionately to the fans. As a show of anti-merger defiance, that gesture, the victory and an accompanying finals berth were hard to beat.
Jason Dunstall kicks a goal. Photo: Ken Irwin
4. Essendon v Hawthorn (round 18, 1982, Windy Hill)
This game will be most remembered for Leigh Matthews famously snapping a Windy Hill point post in half. But is should also be remembered as a famous Hawthorn victory. With finals around the corner, the victor would take third spot on the ladder and a precious double chance in September. Hawthorn led at half-time, but a six-goals-to-one third term by the Bombers, with Stephen Copping booting goals and Tim Watson starring, gave Essendon a 19-point lead at the final change. Enter Matthews. Not only did he impose himself on the furniture, but two crucial goals regained the initiative for the Hawks, who with Russell Greene and Terry Wallace also prominent slammed on seven goals to win going away by 18 points. While the Hawks would end up bowing out in the preliminary final, this was a victory that served notice they were again a force, underlined with appearances in the next seven grand finals for four premierships.
The 1982 game between Hawthorn and Essendon, when Leigh Matthews made contact with a point post and broke it.
5. Sydney v Hawthorn (round 22, 2012, SCG)
The Swans were a game clear of the Hawks in top spot on the ladder and had already stitched them up once for the season when they clashed in the penultimate round of 2012. Early on it was all Sydney, 38 points up midway through the second quarter. Suddenly, Hawthorn exploded into action, with six goals in the next 10 minutes, three of them to Lance Franklin. It was no more than a kick the difference for the rest of a pulsating contest. In a classic nine-goal final term, Ryan O'Keefe put Sydney in front by five points with two minutes left on the clock. But Shaun Burgoyne's coolness restored the Hawks' lead. From the restart, Brad Sewell won the clearance, stormed forward and iced this epic. The Swans, of course, would have sweet revenge in the grand final a few weeks later. But they and the rest of the competition have been paying for that rare Hawthorn stumble ever since.
Brad Sewell celebrates with teammates after kicking the final goal in the 2012 clash. Photo: Getty Images
What is Hawthorn's best win of the modern era?
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