September Stories Part 5 - Hawthorn

Hawthorn… Fourthorn are the best team in modern football, winning four premierships in the past ten years including three on the trot.

Welcome to the month of the year that has so often, so monotonously been draped in gold and brown. The Hawks have become as synonymous with September as freshly cut grass, the MCG soaked in sun, rampant trade rumours and Mike Brady repeats. Who can forget this side’s seemingly countless September feats? Be that dual Norm Smith Medallist Luke Hodge’s simply epic Grand Final performances, always capped off with a singular moment of brilliance such as the iconic boundary line goal that sunk the Eagles early in the 2015 decider.

You must always remember Sam Mitchell’s ever reliable endeavour, his sheer consistency always prevailed on the big stage when so many others faltered. He and Al Clarkson holding the cup aloft is a sight etched in the minds of all Hawks fans forever.

And of course, there is Lance Franklin, the X-factor, 100-goal kicker and excitement machine who morphs into just another vital cog for Hawthorn in September as the opposition exhausts many an hour, planning to curtail the star forward’s influence.

So many other proven September performers wear this jumper proudly; Stewy Dew most famously in 2008, when the marginally overweight ex-Port cult figure turned a Grand Final with five minutes of madness. Brian Lake won a Norm Smith Medal for his Grand Final efforts alongside another reliable ally in defence, Josh Gibson. And that exciting youngster, whose chase, tackle and unrelenting determination drew a standing ovation on the MCC membership wing, and Hawthorn coaches’ box, as he made Geelong look vulnerable - beatable even, for the first time in two years.

What was the little bloke’s name again? Rioli, wasn’t it? Turns out he went on to win a Norm Smith as well. There’s no shortage of Norm Smith Medallists who wore brown and gold. That youngster is now 28 and retired. And on Saturday, Buddy was held goalless in a final, against a club that didn’t even exist when Rioli tackled Enright and Rooke on a wing. He was also wearing a red and white jumper and has a $10 million contract.

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Hodgey is gone now too. He followed club champions Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis’ leads and finished his career elsewhere. Crawford’s been retired for a decade. Dew and Sewell as well. Guerra’s gone, Gibbo is a ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!’ style operator now, while, poor old Brian Lake has been in more Japanese prisons than footy jumpers these days.

This Hawthorn team is not the same one we saw dominate September over the past ten years. Sure, it still has a sprinkling of premiership stars in Burgoyne, Roughead, Gunston, Birchall, Breust, etc… but it is a different team.

 And that’s okay.

What makes this club great is the fact that it has been able to almost seamlessly transition from a premiership dynasty to an almost brand-new premiership challenger. And it only took a single, strange year off from September to do so. This club has been far too greedy when it comes to premiership dynasties. First, it was the 1970s, under the legendary John Kennedy Sr and David Parkin who delivered the club premierships in 1971, ‘76 and ‘78. The 80s and early 90s under Allan Jeans and Allan Joyce meant more VFL flags in 1983, ‘86, ‘88, ‘89 and an AFL flag in 1991. Then, Clarko started Fourthorn (2008, ’13, ’14 and ‘15) which is held in an even higher regard due to the nature of the national 18-team competition, replete with equalisation measures to try and stop this sort of domination from happening.

Surely, Clarkson cannot be the mastermind behind two separate premiership eras at the one club?

Surely?

But that’s what the man is plotting, dammit!

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There is one mighty obstacle standing in his, and his Hawks’ way - the Richmond Football Club, who are poised to build a Hawthorn style reign of glory (or terror). The Tigers knocked off the Hawks by 31 points in the Qualifying Final, with the battle in the coaches’ box just as intriguing as the one taking place on the MCG turf. The man who guided Richmond out of the premiership wilderness after 37 long and frustrating years (see talkback radio circa 1982-2016), Damien Hardwick has a well-documented relationship with the champion Hawthorn coach.

The pair’s association began at Port Adelaide with Alastair Clarkson serving as an assistant coach in the Power’s 2004 premiership year, where Hardwick played a vital role in defence. They reunited at Hawthorn with Hardwick assuming a similar role to Clarkson and becoming a premiership assistant coach in 2008. Later, Clarkson played a key role in the Tigers’ 2016 premiership… press conference.

If you look at the scoreboard at the end of Week One of the Finals, you will see it read Apprentice 1, Master 0.

But, if Hawthorn can topple Melbourne on Friday night, then the Eagles, despite coming off a six-day break (which is apparently a national catastrophe), Clarkson could well strike back in the biggest way possible.

Which would give the Master a coaching legacy almost unsurpassed.

And that’ll do, Tom… that’ll do. If you want to give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter, we’d really appreciate it. You can also give Tom Basso a follow on Twitter as well.

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