10. Round 5 – vs the Cats. The Cats won. They looked great. It was another intense game, the kind that the Cats and Hawks have gifted the footy loving public with for a few years now. The Cats led throughout but never got more than a couple of goals ahead. When the Hawks surged in the last we crossed our fingers so hard they almost bled. But it wasn’t to be the Hawks day. Not this game. The Cats won anotheree. Courtesy of the usual suspects (Johnson, Bartel, Selwood) and the big man, Hawkins. The Hawks tackle count (59 to 61) was the lowest against the Cats this year. In the next two games the tackle count improved, 60/45 and then 81/59.
9. Round 7 – vs the Saints. This is an indulgence. We smashed them. In the rain. Torrential rain. How often do you see scores like this these days? 27.13. I loved it. From go to whoa it rained goals. The Saints would have been forgiven for thinking the footy, or at least the Hawks goals were hailstones. They were pelted with them. This game was a metaphor for climate change. In the same vicinity there was a drought and a hard rain a’fallin. There was no respite. It was a result of manmade activity set in motion a long time before this game got under way. With all the betting and guessing in the world, no-one could predict the devastation wrecked upon this place. It was scorched earth at one end and a biblical deluge at the other. There was no in-between. The Hawks even spread and depth was on deadly aim and display. Only a fool would not have looked up from what he was otherwise preoccupied with and muttered under his breath, oh dear, the horsemen of the apocalypse are approaching, the iceman cometh.
8. Round 23 – vs Collingwood. A win against the Pies deserves recognition in end of year lists anytime. This one was special. The Pies were one of four or 10 sides vying for the last spot in the eight. The Pies had a disastrous second half of the season and even by their accounts probably didn’t deserve to be vying for any such chance. They were a thin shot anyway but after the Hawks demolition job the only thing the Pies were vying for was an extended rest and recuperation. They didn’t need the Arizona mountain air, they just needed a West Rosebud home for the aged and infirm. The Hawks rolled them in a perfect training session leading into the Finals and broke the Pies record of consecutive Finals appearances. The longest run by any side in the competition, stretching back to 2005. Onya Hawks said the rest of the comp.
7. Round 17 – vs Adelaide. We came, we saw, we conquered! We beat Adelaide Oval. This ground was one of the talking points of 2014 AFL. When the Hawks played Port at this same ground Port had 22 on the field plus 50,000 extra players. Or so it seemed. Against Adelaide the crowd might not have been as ferocious as Port but Dangerfield was doing his best to play like he was 50,000 men. He had assistance from Crouch and Jenkins looked to set the game alight. The Hawks, steady as ever, stayed their course. This game might have been higher up the list had umpy Razor Ray not blown his whistle prematurely. His wet whistle deprived Breust of a record breaking sequence of 30 goals from 30 shots on goal in a row! He had equalled Lockett’s long held record with a goal in this game. Bettering Lockett’s record would have been a tad better than equalling it.
6. Round 11 – vs the Giants. Phew! The Hawks had some close games this year but none that challenged them like this game. It would be too easy to say the Hawks came into this game a little too confident. That would undersell how well the Giants played. Part of me hoped (at the time) that the Giants had smacked the Hawks. Left them with a shiny swell of red skin on the left cheek. In a way that happened without the loss. Phew. The Hawks were without some big guns and still reeling from the loss of Clarko to a potentially serious illness. However, the Giants didn’t care. Or they exploited the moment. Or, they are good and getting better. I suspect it’s all of the above. The Hawks withstood every Giants attack and their steely resolve got them through. That and a miscued shot at goal by Giants giant Patton, dead in front, in time on in the Last. Phew!
5. Round 2 – vs Essendon. Where the Hawks did three things. 1. Almost forgot how to cope without Hodge. When he left the field, injured, in the Third it was if the team gave a collective sigh then gave up. The Bombers pounced and almost stole the game. Burgoyne made sure that didn’t happen. 2. Gave the Bombers (and anyone with half an interest in God’s own game) a football lesson before Hodge went down …3. Demonstrated to the Bombers that you don’t become a great side by messing around with pharmacological experiments. You become a great side by standing up when it matters. And when you get knocked down you get up again. And the more of you pulling together the more chance you’ll win. The Hawks did all that and got the 4 points.
4. Round 18 – vs Sydney. This was easily the best game of footy I saw in 2014. At half time you knew one of these team would be playing in the Grand Final. By the end of the game you were sure you had just watched a preview of the Grand Final itself. Such was the intensity. Such was the hunger. Such was the skill. If you want to understand things like resilience, determination and integrity then look no further than how these two teams go about their business. Buddy was back on the G against the team he left behind and that was good theatre. However, the thrilling thing was how each team kept dragging themselves back into the contest, again and again.
3. The Qualifying Final – vs Geelong. Mission accomplished! Yes, the Hawks were favourites to win this one but, as we know, the Cats save their best for the Hawks. With hopes and stakes high, these two Colossuses of the modern game threatened to turn a mild September night into a firestorm. At half time scores were level, at three quarter time there was three kicks in it. Selwood was everywhere. Mitchel was everywhere else, but with artillery, back up and options. When the final siren sounded the Hawks had conclusively struck the monkey off their back. They ran the Cats off the roof and outta Dodge. Smith and Hill stood tall, both in the game and as the Hawks future midfield and leaders.
2. The Preliminary Final – vs Port Adelaide. If I was having kittens in the dying minutes of this superlative stoush I probably wasn’t alone. The official attendance was 74, 856. Imagine that 40,000 plus were Hawks fans. All having kittens. That’s plural! That’s a lot of kittens. Putting my Paul Kelly hat on, I wonder, how many kittens would it take to fill the MCG? I know, the Hawks were careless in those dying minutes. Except the King of Colac, of course. He kept his head. While we can wallow in what might have been lost in those few minutes, we can also reflect on the whole game. The second and third quarters, to be exact. In two quarters the Hawks kicked 11.3 to Port’s, 5.4. That’s what I (choose to) remember. That was the game. Roughy playing a full forward’s game and a midfield in magnificent form. Old heads beating young bodies.
• The Grand Final vs Sydney. – you had to be there to believe it. Get a DVD and relive it. This was a game of inches and perfection, of crunches and, to get all 1960s Batman on you, kapows (with many other Bat-fighting words, http://www.bat-mania.co.uk/trivia/batfight_words.php, as well). This game kept on giving. It was better than being a kid with the keys to a lolly store. Halfway through the second quarter the Hawks kicked three goals in about 90 seconds, taking the lead past 40 points. Could it get better than that? The answer, as it turned out, was yes, yes, YES. Langford’s kid was going to raise the stadium with a gravity defying goal for a start. I looked up to the heavens, speechless and in awe of the awesomeness of it all. I said a silent prayer to the Gods of art and beauty and number 15 and then I lost my voice to the faithful. Cheering and singing and laughing my stupid head off every time a clown near me barked Roughy’s name and someone further away replied with another bark. O come all ye faithful indeed.