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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 2016

            Round 1
            Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
            RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
            Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
            MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
            GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
            NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
            SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
            Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
            WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
            PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
            WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
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            GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
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            Round 2
            Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
            COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
            Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
            ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
            ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
            BRI vs NTH 16:35G
            STK vs WBU 19:25ES
            FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
            HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
            CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
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            Round 3
            Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK vs COL 13:45MCG
            RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
            SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
            GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
            WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
            WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
            GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
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            Round 4
            Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
            WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
            Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
            HAW vs STK 14:10AS
            BRI vs GCF 16:35G
            CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
            ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
            COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
            NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
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            Round 5
            Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
            Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
            GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
            WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
            PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
            STK vs GWS 13:10ES
            FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
            MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
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            COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
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            Round 6
            Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
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            MEL vs STK 13:45ES
            ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
            GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
            RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
            GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
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            CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
            WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
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            Round 7
            Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
            Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
            COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
            GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
            SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
            GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
            WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
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            PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
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            Round 8
            Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
            ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
            HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
            GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
            BRI vs COL 19:25G
            RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
            Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
            MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
            WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
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            Round 9
            Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
            Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
            COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
            GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
            PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
            NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
            FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
            GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
            STK vs ESS 16:40ES
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            Round 10
            Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
            Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
            BRI vs HAW 13:45G
            MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
            STK vs FRE 16:35ES
            ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
            ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
            COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
            WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
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            Round 11
            Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
            Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
            CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
            GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
            GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
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            WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
            ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
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            Round 12
            Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
            Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
            BRI vs FRE 16:35G
            GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
            WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
            Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
            STK vs CAR 13:10ES
            RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
            GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
            Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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            Round 13
            Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
            Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
            BRI vs WCE 13:40G
            FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
            WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
            Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
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            Round 14
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            Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
            COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
            Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
            GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
            STK vs GEE 19:25ES
            Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
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            Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
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            Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
            PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
            Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
            GCF vs STK 13:40MS
            SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
            CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
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            MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
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            Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
            Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
            GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
            WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
            MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
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            CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
            WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
            ESS vs STK 16:40ES
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            Round 17
            Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
            Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
            FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
            Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
            NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
            WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
            ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
            STK vs MEL 15:20ES
            BRI vs GWS 16:40G
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            Round 18
            Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
            COL vs NTH 19:50ES
            Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
            GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
            WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
            WBU vs STK 19:25ES
            GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
            Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
            HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
            PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
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            Round 19
            Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
            GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
            Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
            GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
            HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
            COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
            BRI vs PTA 19:25G
            NTH vs STK 19:25ES
            Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
            MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
            FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
            ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
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            Round 20
            Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
            RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
            Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
            SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
            MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
            GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
            WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
            ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
            GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
            FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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            Round 21
            Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
            WBU vs COL 19:50ES
            Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
            BRI vs CAR 13:45G
            HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
            GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
            STK vs SYD 19:25ES
            PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
            ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
            RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
            FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
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            Round 22
            Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
            WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
            Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
            NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
            RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
            GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
            COL vs GCF 19:25ES
            PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
            Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
            CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
            BRI vs GEE 15:20G
            ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
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            Round 23
            Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
            HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
            STK vs BRI 12:00ES
            ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
            GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
            SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
            NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
            GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
            ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
            FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
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            AFL 2015
            Overall standings
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            Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
            Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
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