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I always saw myself as a little bit like Jonathan Brown


Greg Baum

Tom Hawkins thinks he has far to go in his football development.

Tom Hawkins thinks he has far to go in his football development. Photo: Pat Scala

RECENTLY, Tom Hawkins drew up a list of the best 10 centre half-forwards he has seen. He apologises that it does not include Carey, Brereton, Kernahan or Lyon; at 23, he is too young to have known their heydays. It does include Brownless and Stoneham: Geelong by birth and raising, their names were synonymous with football in his awareness.

Of course, it features Lance Franklin, who is everything Hawkins knows he cannot be. “That goal he kicked against Essendon,” he marvels. “How he kicked that, I really don't know. On the run, after a 100-metre effort .?.?.”

Travis Cloke is there: Hawkins admires how he has learnt to use his strength.

But at the top is the man who will be at the other end of the Gabba to him tonight. “I didn't idolise Jonathan Brown, but I just loved the way he went about his football,” Hawkins said. “I always saw myself as a little bit like him.”

As a teenager, his affection was purely visceral. Since, he has heard from Tom Lonergan and Matthew Scarlett how difficult Brown is to play on, and his admiration has deepened. “He'd run from one wing to the other, then back, then back up to the ball, then run back and take one [mark] running with the flight of the ball, and kick a goal,” he said. “He's inspirational. I love watching Browny.”

But Hawkins has trodden a decidedly different path to Brown. At 22, Brown had won three premierships and was a dominant, intimidating figure in the game. At 22, Hawkins had played an incidental part in one premiership, but was on the fringe of the Geelong team. Not quite a forward and not really a ruckman, he appeared lost in and almost to the game. Then, as now, he was a gentle giant, a compliment in life, a question mark in contact sport.

No one at Geelong said explicitly that he was on his last chance, but Hawkins felt it. “I'm sure they were thinking that,” he said. “It's something you get told [by outsiders] and it's hard to hear.”

Suddenly, in last year's finals, Hawkins exploded to life. In the grand final, he was the game-breaker. That form has spilled into this year: he is averaging career highs for marks — especially inside 50 — kicks and goals per game. For the first time, he is as formidable as he looks. Hawkins said there was no road to Damascus moment; rather, it was metamorphosis: boy-man becomes man, becomes behemoth.

“I can't put it down to any one thing,” he said. “But I think confidence is a big part of football. It's something I've struggled with a little bit. Growing up, I was always a big kid. You're confident because you're big. Then coming and playing against big men, who push you around, you can lose that confidence.

“Finding it again and playing with the confidence that you can take a mark, you can kick straight at goal: that's the biggest thing I've dealt with over the last 12 months.”

The salutary lesson he has drawn from it is that football is as much mental as physical. “Football's taught me a lot over the last 12 months,” he said. “You can't take anything for granted. You have a couple of bad games, and mentally, you start doubting yourself. It could be just around the corner again. I don't want it to be, but that's just the facts of football.”

Hawkins is an avid, five-handicapper at golf, with Steve Johnson, the best at the club. He sees parallels. “I marvel at how golfers can play the way they do, under the pressure they're under,” he said. “Tiger Woods is the best example. And it's exciting.” He cannot imagine which would be more frightening to face: a two-metre putt to win the US Masters, or a 40-metre, post-siren kick to win the grand final. In either instance, you know Johnson would be nearby.

Hawkins at Geelong is to the manor born. It is a distinctly Geelong tradition. His father, Jack, was long-serving, high-leaping and popular. Hawkins was not born until five years after his father retired, and so knows his football exploits only from scrapbooks, snippets and club lore.

A preceding name can be burden or bolster to a young footballer, but Hawkins has a simple take on it. “I barracked for Geelong. I love the Geelong Footy Club. And if it wasn't for dad, I wouldn't be playing for Geelong. It's a massive advantage when you look at it like that.”

Hawkins likes to think he has returned the favour by helping to deliver the success that eluded his father (who played in two losing preliminary finals), doubling the enjoyment for both. He says his father's chief virtue is his humility, and agrees that his role in his career has been pastoral rather than supervisory. He is a farmer, after all.

Hawkins grew up on the family farm at Finley and boarded at Melbourne Grammar. In all ways, he loomed large in recruiters' minds, but already was off limits. He admits now that he read his own pre-publicity and was not grounded when he arrived at Geelong. “I came into the game as a big kid,” he said. He was strong for his age, but not for open age. He was carrying puppy fat.

He felt inhibited. His role models were supposed now to be his mates; it was all too soon. One was Cam Mooney. “As a kid, I used to love watching him play; the 'big hairy Cat', running around,” he said. “But, no disrespect, I didn't think he was as good as he was until I got down here.”

There were so many others in this emerging champion team, leaving room on the edges. It shaped him. “2008, '09, even a bit of '10, I probably played more like an in-and-out player,” he said. “Waiting for the ball to be kicked. Moving out of space for someone else. Just waiting, really.

“That's a confidence thing. Then you want the ball kicked to you. You want to run to the right space. You want to be in the contest. You want to help your team win. Then you become a better player.”

The coach changed, but the message did not: Hawkins had to impose himself at the contest. He shed weight and added strength, and the effort continues: belying appearances. Trent West, Scarlett and Harry Taylor all are still stronger than him in the gym. But Hawkins began to play stronger, which is not the same thing. Cloke was his exemplar in how to throw his weight around.

Hawkins is pleased, but not deluded. He thinks he has far to go in his football development. But Geelong, still half-city, half-town, suits him. He is relishing football's simple joys. “I love training. You go home and you feel so good about yourself,” he said. “I love the couple of days leading up to games. I really get excited and nervous about every game. I love that feeling. I don't really like recovery. But it's part of football. I love winning games. I just love playing football on the weekend.”

As late as the eve of last year's finals, Geelong coach Chris Scott was in two minds whether to back Hawkins or Mooney. Ultimately, it was doubt about creaking Mooney rather than conviction in his faith in Hawkins that decided it. It proved serendipitous.

At half-time in the grand final, Mooney pep-talked Hawkins, saying that with James Podsiadly out of the game, it was up to him to be the big man. Minutes after the final siren, Mooney caught Hawkins in a bear hug and said he was at peace, because he knew that he could no longer do what Hawkins had just done.

That final siren remains powerful in Hawkins' memory. For 10 seconds or so, he was under a spell, until a teammate's embrace broke it. He cannot imagine a better feeling. “To now be part of this successful side,” he said, “to be privileged enough to come to Geelong when I did .?.?.” Words trailed off. Deeds, at last, had spoken.


  • As a Collingwood supporter I can't share the warm glow of his 2011 Grand Final memories, but I always love that moment when talented young players finally 'realise' what they can do. Sometimes, there is a visible moment when their raw ability and enthusiasm intersects with the often savage demands of professional football, and it is gratifying to watch. It is even more gratifying when the young player in question has been as maligned as Tom Hawkins was, and much as Jack Watts is now.

    Days to Come
    Here and There
    Date and time
    April 28, 2012, 10:43AM
    • Hawkins didn't play an 'incidental' part in the 2009. He kicked a clutch goal in the final quarter, as well as a goal (that wasn't) in the third quarter. Important contribution.

      Date and time
      April 28, 2012, 11:15AM
      • Yeah, nothing shattered me more than seeing Ben Reid beaten in the grand final after he was so awesome all year and gave Collingwood such a great service. But I can't help but like Tom Hawkins anyway, and felt for the amount of criticism he received as a young player. It is great for him that his play is now being lauded rather than critiqued. I hope he goes on to be in the same class as Jonathan Brown, who is an absolute AFL legend in my book.

        Date and time
        April 28, 2012, 11:31AM
        • Tom Hawkins has kicked goals in last halves of two premierships. That is plenty.

          Date and time
          April 28, 2012, 12:40PM
          • He looked like he was headed the way of Clive Waterhouse for a while there. Glad to see he is finally starting to reap some reward for the hard work. Doesn't have the natural talent of a Carey or Franklin but some of the greats didn't either.

            At 23 he has his best football is still ahead of him, I think he's only going to get better each year.

            Date and time
            April 28, 2012, 2:08PM
            Comments are now closed

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            AFL 2015

            Round 1
            Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
            CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
            Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
            MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
            SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
            BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
            WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
            Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
            ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
            FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
            Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
            HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
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            Round 2
            Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
            WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
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            RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
            GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
            COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
            GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
            PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
            Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
            GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
            ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
            NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
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            Round 3
            Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
            COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
            Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
            CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
            ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
            SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
            NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
            BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
            Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
            HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
            GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
            WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
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            Round 4
            Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
            RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
            Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
            ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
            GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
            PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
            FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
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            BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
            GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
            WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
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            Round 5
            Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
            Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
            RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
            SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
            GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
            NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
            WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
            Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
            MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
            STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
            ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
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            Round 6
            Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
            COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
            Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
            NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
            WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
            GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
            GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
            MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
            FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
            Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
            PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
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            Round 7
            Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
            ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
            Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
            ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
            HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
            CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
            SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
            WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
            Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
            WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
            RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
            BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
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            Round 8
            Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
            GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
            Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
            STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
            GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
            GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
            HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
            FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
            Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
            ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
            MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
            PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
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            Round 9
            Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
            SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
            Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
            HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
            MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
            WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
            RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
            ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
            Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
            BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
            COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
            WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
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            Round 10
            Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
            FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
            Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
            GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
            ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
            PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
            Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
            GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
            NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
            STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
            Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
            MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
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            Round 11
            Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
            PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
            Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
            GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
            WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
            NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
            Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
            COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
            STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
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            Round 12
            Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
            ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
            Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
            RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
            Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
            GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
            WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
            Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
            GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
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            Round 13
            Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
            FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
            Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
            SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
            Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
            HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
            BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
            STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
            Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
            CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
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            Round 14
            Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
            SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
            Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
            COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
            Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
            RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
            GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
            WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
            MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
            Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
            ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
            ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
            FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
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            Round 15
            Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
            PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
            Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
            RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
            Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
            ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
            WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
            NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
            WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
            Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
            HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
            BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
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            Round 16
            Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
            NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
            Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
            GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
            GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
            COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
            SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
            FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
            Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
            MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
            PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
            STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
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            Round 17
            Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
            CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
            Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
            ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
            RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
            ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
            BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
            Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
            WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
            MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
            WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
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            Round 18
            Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
            HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
            Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
            GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
            COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
            SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
            CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
            GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
            Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
            PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
            ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
            FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
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            Round 19
            Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
            ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
            Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
            COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
            WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
            BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
            GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
            WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
            Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
            MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
            GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
            STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
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            Round 20
            Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
            SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
            Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
            ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
            NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
            PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
            GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
            BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
            Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
            RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
            WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
            FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
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            Round 21
            Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
            HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
            Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
            COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
            GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
            GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
            STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
            ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
            Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
            NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
            CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
            WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
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            Round 22
            Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
            GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
            Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
            GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
            HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
            NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
            ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
            GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
            Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
            ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
            STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
            FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
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            Round 23
            Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
            RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
            Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
            GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
            BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
            PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
            HAW 113vs CAR 56 Report Stats
            SYD 127vs GCF 64 Report Stats
            WCE 125vs STK 30 Report Stats
            Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
            MEL 103vs GWS 77 Report Stats
            COL 92vs ESS 95 Report Stats
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            Round 24
            Fri, 11 SepTimes shown AEST
            WCE 96vs HAW 64 Report Stats
            Sat, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
            FRE 69vs SYD 60 Report Stats
            WBU 102vs ADE 109 Report Stats
            Sun, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
            RIC 88vs NTH 105 Report Stats
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            Round 25
            Fri, 18 SepTimes shown AEST
            HAW 135vs ADE 61 Report Stats
            Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
            SYD 51vs NTH 77 Report Report Stats
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            Round 26
            Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
            FRE 67vs HAW 94 Report Stats
            Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
            WCE 80vs NTH 55 Report Stats
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            Round 27
            Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
            HAW 107vs WCE 61 Report Stats
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            AFL 2015
            Overall standings
            Team P W L D % Pts
            Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
            West Coast Eagles 22 16 5 1 148.22 66
            Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
            Sydney Swans 22 16 6 0 127.12 64
            Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
            Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
            Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
            North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
            View all

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