An Oral History of Hawthorn v Geelong - The Curse

The history between Geelong and Hawthorn is rich, and in 2008, a new chapter was written. It ushered in an era of nail biting finishes, premierships, and some of the greatest match ups in footy history. It also provided the Kennett Curse.

Part One - Matthews-Bruns

Part Two  - 1989

In Round 17, 2008, Geelong accounted for Hawthorn at the MCG in front of a huge crowd of over 86,000 people. The young, hungry Hawks thought they were a chance against the dominant Cats, and though they got within 11 points, there was some genuine belief in the group.

GRAND FINAL DAY 2008

“I loved just about every minute of the 2008 season up until the Grand Final.” – Steve Johnson.
“They’ll try to come through us today, like a shark but good luck against the best defensive side in the competition. As soon as they stop, they die. We have to kill this shark as soon as we possibly can.” – Alastair Clarkson.
“In the 2008 Grand Final we were ready to pressure the Hawks whenever they had the ball inside our attacking 50-metre arc. But instead of taking us on, they kept doubling back and rushing behinds. It was a really smart tactic – probably the game changer for them.” – Johnson.
“In the 2008 Grand Final I played on both Chappy and Steve Johnson. They both had their share of the ball but they didn’t hurt us on the scoreboard that much and with players as dangerous as those two, that was a win.” – Brent Guerra.
“I can’t believe you have chosen this day to be selfish. I can’t believe, of all the days, this is the one you decide to do it.” – Thompson at half time of the 2008 Grand Final.
“The hurt will be around for a long time, and we will do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I can tell you, if we’re in it next year… look out!” – Chapman
“That’s what I’m talking about!” – Shane Crawford

THE AFTERMATH

“Not much was said after the siren, but we will sit down and have a chat about it and realise the opportunity we’ve missed.” – Paul Chapman, hours after the 2008 Grand Final loss.
“Every time I turned the TV on, there was Hawthorn with OUR cup in their hands.” – Matthew Scarlett.
“I have never seen Bomber like that – he was in total disbelief. It was like he needed to watch the game again to figure out what had happened.” – Chapman
“I don’t think too much was said, or needed to be said. The boys knew that they just didn’t perform well on the day. It was just one that got away.” – Gary Ablett
“We didn’t point fingers after the game because we all knew we had let ourselves down, and paid the biggest price in football.” – Chapman
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over our loss in 2008. Every time I saw an ad in the newspaper or on TV for Hawthorn premiership merchandise, I felt sick.” – Johnson

2009

“When they coordinate together they are almost unbeatable.” – Jeff Kennett. Hawthorn President
“What they don’t have, I think, is the quality of some of our players; they don’t have the psychological drive we have. We’ve beaten Geelong when it matters.” – Kennett
“It’s a bit cheeky, isn’t it? Generally, it’s news for a day but there are some things that hurt them (players) and shouldn’t be said.” – Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson
“I think we’re a pretty strong and mentally tough sort of group. Sure, they beat us in a Grand Final. So be it. It’s one game, it’s been done.” – Thompson
“I won’t use it, but I am sure everyone at the club will probably hear about it, that’s for sure.” – Mark Thompson.
“I still remember the first time I played on him (Franklin), I think it was ’09. He’d just come off the back of kicking a hundred the year before, and I’ve walked up and he started laughing, and he might’ve said ‘What’s your name?’ One thing for sure, you’ll know my name by the end of the day.” – Tom Lonergan
“A point would do the job. The shot was from 20 metres out on the angle, and the ball couldn’t have been in better hands. Jimmy guided the ball through for a behind and was immediately swamped by teammates, who were going nuts. The outpouring of emotion was worthy of a final.” – Scarlett on Jimmy Bartel’s after the siren behind to sink the Hawks.
“When Brent Guerra kicked a goal at the two minute mark of the last quarter, Hawthorn’s lead was 28 points. From where I was sitting, the game appeared shot.”- Scarlett on R17 2009
“The only thing I’d say about the ’08 Grand Final is that it was only really spoken about at three-quarter time of the 2009 Grand Final. That’s the only time I remember that loss being brought up in front of the group.” - Harley

THE CHAPPY PACT

“There is and was no pact. It’s a definite myth, that one.” – Cameron Ling.
“We’ve said to ourselves that we don’t, if we can, ever let Hawthorn beat us again because we still hurt from that. It’s obviously in the back of our heads, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.” – Paul Chapman in an interview with the Geelong Advertiser in 2011.
“If you’re relying on external motivation to drive an outcome for you then I think you’re really barking up the wrong tree.” – Harley.
“It might’ve been the subject of locker room scuttlebutt.” – Harley
“I don’t think I heard it in Bomber’s time, or in my one year under Scotty.”- Ling.

2010

“You do build yourself up for them. They’ve been the benchmark for the competition for the last four years” – Luke Hodge. On the Couch April 5th 2010.

2011

“The reason why Geelong beats us, the fact is they’ve been a better team than us.” – Hodge. June 9th 2011
“In 2011 we played Hawthorn in the qualifying final. That was the game when ‘Menz’ did he knee for the first time. He had shown what he was capable of during that year. The Hawks were such a professional team and we had a lot of respect for them. It’s really only when a side is arrogant or cocky that you start to resent them.” – Chapman

2012

“We controlled the Easter Monday game for most of the afternoon, and led by three goals at three quarter time. Then driving rain struck the MCG, which normally means it’s hard for the team chasing to make up ground. Geelong forward, James Podsiadly had been lively all day, and proceeded to kick three goals in the final quarter. With six minutes to go, they were in front.” – Hodge
“There were so many ‘nearly’ moments after that – the biggest coming in the final 20 seconds, when Roughy flew high and got two bites of a mark just 20 metres out from goal. It looked like it had stuck til the last second, then from the spillage Jack Gunston kicked a point. It was our fifth for the quarter; we’d gone goalless.” - Hodge
“You’ve just got to be tougher and harder for longer. Geelong have been the best at it for five years. You can say everything about their skill and that sort of stuff, but this is the area where they’ve been outstanding. Their resilience has been terrific, and they’re hard and tough and they’ve been able to do it over and over again. The challenge for us (is) we have to be like that.” – Clarkson to his team.
“Go Cats, time to beat these bunnies.” – Attributed at the time to the Twitter account of Max Rooke. It was later found to be a fake account.
“So Popstar, that bullsh*t of trying to kick it from the boundary on the full – just tap it over the line and kill the ball. We’ll take the stoppage and we think we can score.” – Clarkson to Paul Puopolo
“With the Hawks up near the top of the ladder, they were tipped to finally break their losing streak against us.” Johnson, on Round 19 2012
“I started in the middle of the ground as we blew the predictions to smithereens by kicking nine goals to two in the first quarter.” – Johnson R19 2012

The Hawks clawed their way back into it, slowly but surely.

“… Brad Sewell put them up eight points with five minutes to go. It was do or die.” – Johnson R19 2012

With under thirty seconds remaining, Puopolo did exactly what what Clarkson had instructed him not to, hacking the ball out of the air in the forward line, trying to do the impossible. The Cats took possession and risked going straight up the guts. Joel Selwood's kick found Tom Hawkins at the 50.

“The crowd was hushed for a moment as Hawkins lined up. The siren sounded as he started his run up, but he continued on and took the shot from just outside 50. As soon as the ball left his boot, I knew it was going through. It was a magnificent sight.” – Johnson R19 2012
“The kick is on the way, the siren’s gone... They did it again!” - Dennis Cometti on commentary
“We had done it again. We had beaten the Hawks for the ninth straight time.” – Johnson R19 2012
“Poppy, you’ve got to learn composure, mate. You did the same thing last week, exactly the same thing. You did the same thing in the preliminary final. If you can’t compose yourself at the front end of the ground, mate, we’re going to have to find another position for you – because you’ve got to read the game.” – Clarkson, post-match
“Take some initiative! You know the game. ORGANISE IT! Stratton’s there. Think ‘I’ll get his man, lock on him because that’s what I can do well.’ Say ‘Stratts, you get free!’” – Clarkson to Liam Shiels post-game.
“It was probably the biggest whack I’ve ever got. I was told to play behind the ball and pushed up, thinking I was a chance to get a goal.” – Liam Shiels
“Stevie J to Selwood to Tomahawk and he kicked the goal. It was a slow walk back to the rooms, and I knew it was coming, but it was a pretty big whack.” – Shiels.
“This is four years of them now. Four years of the same stuff – in crunch time we can’t stay composed.” – Clarkson
“Everything in life happens for a reason. If we meet them in the finals, this experience will serve them well.” – Jeff Kennett

2013

“When the heat was on in the third quarter, and we really needed some individuals to step up, I don’t think we should discount Joel Selwood, who kind of reminded me of Gary Ablett when the game was on the line.” – Chris Scott on 2nd April 2013 as the Cats extended the streak to ten games.
“Joel just imposes himself on the game.” – Scott
”… it looks to me, from the outside, that Joel just decides something needs to be done and he’s going to take the whole team with him.” – Scott
“There was an excuse in 2009 because of injury, but 2010,.2011, and 2012 we have underperformed. Someone has to take responsibility for that.” – Kennett
“The Kennett Curse is a load of crap. The results in these games have nothing to do with a curse. The simple fact is Geelong want to beat us more than we want to beat them.” – Chris Fagan, future Brisbane Lions coach
“The laws of probability suggest that if you toss a coin and continue to call tails, sooner or later you’re going to get it right. Which is how Hawthorn must feel when it comes to playing Geelong.” – Rohan Connolly. The Age.
“In the past, Bud had played into Lonergan’s hands. He’d go deep, and Lonergan’s a very strong person, especially when you’ve got Enright, Mackie, Taylor around him. Their whole game is reading the play, dropping off and chopping out for their teammates.” – Hodge
“Bud can’t play deep. Get him up high and move him around.” - Hodge
“We haven’t been trying to avoid them; we’re happy to play them.” – Sam Mitchell on the eve of the 2013 Prelim.
“It’s not a long battle. It’s many short battles, one after another, after another, after another… until they succumb.” – Message on the whiteboard in the Hawthorn rooms
“I am sure they love to talk about the rivalry, because they always seem to win.” – Mitchell
“It’s a bit of a black mark for us.”- Mitchell
“I just know our players can do it.” – Frank Costa. Prelim final eve 2013
“Chappy said for as long as he plays, he’s not going to be beaten (again by Hawthorn).” – Mark Thompson on the eve of the 2013 Preliminary Final.

But Chapman wasn't there. He was sitting in the Grandstand.

“The legacy of these Hawthorn players is on the line tonight.” – Dennis Cometti, on commentary.
“As the scores tightened up, we probably went a bit too defensive.” – Johnson. 2013 Prelim
“Mitch Duncan, who is a great young player, lost his head a couple of times and kicked wild torpedoes into a nest of Hawks in the middle of the ground.” – Johnson
“At three quarter time not many people gave us a chance, but as a backline we definitely did, and I think as a playing group too.” – Ben Stratton
“We got the first one, and from then on we knew it was ‘game on’.”- Stratton
“We touched on how we were the best last-quarter team in the comp and we could finish full of run. We could run over the top and win the game from here.” – Shaun Burgoyne
“The crowd held its breath, my stomach churned. Varcoe took a couple of steps and put his boot into the ball. It wobbled and faded wide.” – Johnson
“Hawthorn supporters danced in the aisles as we slumped to the turf. We had missed out on another Grand Final by just five points. The Hawks had broken the Kennett Curse.” – Johnson.
“People have said our last ten games have been good spectacles of football… but we’ve hated every one of them.” – Hodge
“To come out and actually stand strong in a close one, and not fold, like we’ve done the last 11 times. It’s a great feeling.” – Hodge
“We deserved to win. We worked hard as a footy club, but it’s not our Grand Final.” – Clarkson
“You two blokes, Mitch and Shaunie, almost single-handedly got us across the line.”- Clarkson
“I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge them as a great side when they won the 2013 flag.” – Johnson

FINAL THOUGHTS

“The challenge was taking on a side with elite talent across every line, one that was guided by one of the great coaches with an enormous supporter base who always showed up.” – Jimmy Bartel post retirement.
“To play in huge contests before crowds of 85,000 – that’s what you dream about as a footy player. It was an absolute privilege to be part of it.”- Johnson
“The match-ups alone were worth the price of admission. Cyril Rioli versus Corey Enright, Tom Lonergan versus Lance Franklin, Mitchell versus Selwood, Birchall versus Johnson, Harry Taylor versus Roughead – these were classic match-ups.” – Bartel
“Do you know what? I still think about it to this day.” – Thompson.
“I am still bitter about the loss.” – Johnson, in his 2017 autobiography.
“When I look back at that rivalry with the Hawks, I just feel thankful to have been part of it. We were two bulls going at each other.” – Johnson

 

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