R3 – Geelong v Hawthorn – All That Mattered


This was a game of momentum shifts and an unusual delay, which ultimately ended with Geelong running out 36-point winners over, an at times threatening, Hawthorn side.

This article will read more like a general match review, such was the importance of each of the first three quarters in determining a winner today. Geelong deserved the win, being better for longer, but it wasn’t without a fight as Hawthorn showed they won’t be a side that just rolls over and accepts defeat in 2024.

In my opinion, no one player really stood out today, rather it was system over individual, and the side that were able to get it on their terms for longer would be the one to win the game, which is exactly what Geelong were able to do.

A little bit to talk about today, so let’s get stuck in…

That First Quarter

That was Geelong football at its finest. Geelong’s midfield mix in this game wasn’t their traditional unit, but it’s clear how much system plays a part in what the Cats are doing. Everything clicked into place from the first Hawthorn goal onwards. Tanner Bruhn was everywhere with 15 disposals and five clearances, leading from the front in an onslaught that Hawthorn had no answers for.

The way they use space is second to none when they’re at their best. Defensively, Jack Henry and Tom Stewart were everywhere, and you never truly felt that any forward thrusts of Hawthorn were going to lead to a goal. Max Holmes used his pace well, breaking lines and using the ball at a high level.

It seemed Hawthorn’s defenders were caught off guard early and couldn’t work into the quarter from then on. I imagine it would have felt hard to breathe down there, given the relentlessness and precision of the forward entries.

Geelong’s system is the envy of the competition, and this quarter showed why. No side can go with a quarter played like that.


The Fightback

I must admit, I didn’t think Hawthorn would fire a shot after that first quarter. A young side that hasn’t found anywhere near their best footy this year, I thought they would shut up shop, cop a hiding, and move on to next week.

How wrong I was.

Hawthorn’s defenders really took some accountability, and the likes of Frost, Sicily and Hardwick got involved and started to intercept.

This led to some rebound footy, which in turn brought repeat entries. Cam Mackenzie’s second goal seemed to bring back a spark of enthusiasm, and it was on. Hawthorn’s pressure lifted under those repeat entries, and the big key forwards of Chol and Lewis lifted, after being virtually non-existent in the first quarter.

This was a character-building quarter of football that Hawthorn should lean on for the rest of the year. When hope builds and you have complete buy in, effort can win you a game of football. This needs to be the DNA of the club while they’re still young and inexperienced. Hawks supporters should be buoyed by what they saw in the second quarter today.


The Other Fightback

At half-time this game was really anyone’s for the taking. Both sides had quarters of dominance, and really either team maintaining their own brand was probably going to win. Geelong had to restart after the hiding they copped in the second, but once they got going, we had what was essentially a repeat of the first quarter.

After Chol kicked his third to open the quarter, the game reverted to Geelong dominance for a good chunk of the quarter, and much like the first, you felt Geelong would score on most entries, and when they didn’t, it wasn’t long until the ball was back in there for another opportunity.

The game quickly blew out to a similar margin at the end of the first quarter. Hawthorn found some late ascendancy, but unfortunately for them, it coincided with the rain, meaning all their forward entries lacked the same threat of Geelong’s. The Geelong back six held up well during these entries and did well to not concede a goal.

The rain well and truly set in, which meant it was always going to be hard for Hawthorn to find their way back into the game in the last. And then, the lightning came…


The Restart

After a significant lightning delay, and Mitch Lewis being subbed out with a reported hamstring injury, it was Hawthorn who brought the pressure early in the last quarter. With the rain still bucketing down, the Hawks adapted to the conditions quickly and were able to put a couple goals on the board to create a bit of momentum and ask Geelong to win the game for themselves, rather than just hold on.

And that’s exactly what happened. Geelong was able to get their game going again as the conditions improved, and put some distance back on the scoreboard, ultimately winning by 36 points. It was largely a case of Hawthorn having too much to do in conditions that aren’t conducive to a significant comeback. They cracked in, but it was always going to be a mammoth ask to win the game.

Hawkins was gifted a late goal from Jeremy Cameron to take his tally to four for the day in his 350th game. The big man hasn’t missed a beat and still looms as one of the Cats’ most important players, a testament to how impactful he has been across his career. Geelong got the job done in awful conditions and were deserved winners.


The Side Notes:

During the first quarter onslaught, Tom Stewart had a moment that was indicative of his footy smarts. Luke Breust had the ball just inside 50 with the opportunity to kick a goal. Stewart was on his man (Mitch Lewis) in the goal square and expertly positioned himself between the two hawthorn players which created enough doubt for Breust where he didn’t kick the goal or pass it off. Stewart came up to him and created enough pressure, Breust slipped over and was caught holding the ball, and soon after it went down the other end and Cameron goaled. It was ideal defending from Stewart, and showed the smarts he possesses.

A somewhat interesting ruck battle today between Meek and Conway. I thought Meek’s tap work was more than serviceable and showed a bit to build around, so long as you keep it out of his hands around the ground. Conway got forward and kicked a goal, and while he wasn’t as prolific as Meek disposal wise, he looked cleaner with it in hand. Definitely a bit to work with for Geelong.

Jhye Clark did some nice things today, looks like a player willing to take a dangerous kick inside. I always appreciate guys that play with no fear with their kicking.

The Ginnivan Rule was firmly in effect today. He was short-changed on a few definite free kicks due to the reputation. He is far from the only one that has played for a free kick. Time the umpires re-assessed how they’re calling him. It’s getting a bit embarrassing.

James Worpel was the most prolific guy out there today, racking up 35 touches and eight tackles in a valiant effort. In my opinion, he didn’t necessarily stand out, while having 11 more disposals than the next best Hawthorn midfielder in Connor Nash. Still, a good showing from him, would like to see him maintain this sort of form.

Tom Stewart always gets the plaudits, but don’t forget about Jack Henry. A great game from him today, rarely loses his match up and is just as vital as Stewart in Geelong’s fortunes. Deserves a mention.


What Mattered Most

As I’ve said a few times, this was a game not of individual brilliance, but of system and playing the game on your terms. The way momentum swung in each quarter is evidence of that fact, and Geelong were able to play the way they wanted for longer, and inevitably won the game.

When Geelong are at their best, they look impossible to score against, and threatening on forward entry. The guys in the middle today were not the names we’re used to seeing, but they were able to play their roles effectively and won enough footy to get the ball moving in a Geelong way.

We saw Hawthorn in the second quarter play the game to their strengths, unfortunately for them it just wasn’t for long enough, and if you can’t match a side like Geelong while they’re firing, they will give you few opportunities to win the game. One quarter of brilliance can’t win you a game of footy.

So that’s all that mattered from the hit out today. Gather round next week sees Geelong take on the Bulldogs in a game that will let us know how serious we should be taking a finals assault from the two sides. Hawthorn will face what I’m sure will be a hungry Collingwood side desperate for their first win. Strangely, that’s the game I’m most looking forward to watching.