Sam-Mitchell

So star-studded is Hawthorn’s current list that if they can’t snatch the 2013 premiership, questions will be raised about whether they have made the most of their talent.

When Hawthorn won the flag in 2008, before they were expected to win one, there was the major possibility that they would go on to win at least one or two more before their premiership window closes.

Since the glory days of 2008, it has been a gloomy four years from a Hawthorn perspective. When names such as Hodge, Franklin, Rioli, Mitchell and Roughead are all playing for the same team in the same era, it is easy to understand why Hawthorn will be rather disappointed with only one premiership from the past six years.

Though Hawthorn had a golden chance to add to their premiership tally last year, they wasted their opportunity and now find themselves in a very similar position in the build-up to Friday night. They are the favourites against their hoodoo team, Geelong, which they have been in big games against them many times before.

It is now or never. Win this game, and suddenly Hawthorn will gain a world of confidence and will head into the grand final confident of claiming the scalp of either Fremantle or Sydney.

But lose this game, and it is panic stations down at Waverley Park. In many people’s eyes, this is the last roll of the dice. If Hawthorn fail this week, it will be hard to gauge where some of their players are at mentally, and whether they can cope under pressure on the big stage.

In general terms, Hawthorn is playing much better football than Geelong at the moment, so it would be easy to go out and say Hawthorn are favourites and should win it comfortably. However, a particular curse, better known as the ‘Kennett curse’, says otherwise. It came about when Jeff Kennett questioned Geelong’s skills and mentality to match it with Hawthorn following the 2008 grand final triumph. However, 11 games later, and without the role of president at Hawthorn, Kennett’s comments have backfired, with Geelong winning each contest.

It will without a doubt go down as one of the most remarkable winning streaks in AFL history. It’s not just the fact Jeff Kennett made those statements, or even the way it happened straight after the grand final. It is the classic battle of these two sides that make the fans around the nation stop and watch.

So extraordinary is this streak that nine out of the 11 games have been won by 10 points or less. When you put that in contrast, it is quite astonishing that Hawthorn has not been able to snatch one of those victories. What adds to the astounding streak is the fact that in the majority of these close games, Hawthorn have, at some stage in the match, looked to have it all wrapped up. That is of course until a switch flicks on and Geelong suddenly run over the top of them.

It really is the ultimate test for Alastair Clarkson’s men on Friday night. Every single Hawthorn supporter knows what it means to them after going through the pain of the last 11 games. If Hawthorn can’t get the job done, the question will have to be asked whether they will ever defeat the Cats.

The key to Hawthorn’s game style on Friday night will be their use of the football and how damaging they can be with the ball in hand. If they use it efficiently and take their opportunities, there has to be a way in for Hawthorn to end this streak.

But the problem for Hawthorn, and it is where Geelong have made them look so vulnerable in the past, especially in last quarters when fatigue sets in, is the pure leg speed that Geelong possess. Time and time again towards the end of the contest, the Cats, generally led by their skipper Joel Selwood, run and carry the ball through the corridor and this is the reason why Geelong has come from behind a countless number of times.

Until Hawthorn can get the monkey off their back, the question remains. Just how long will the Kennett curse last?