There is nothing better than a packed MCG on a Saturday night to watch the top of the ladder teams battle it out, but this match between Geelong and Hawthorn is one of the most fascinating rivalries of the modern game. Hawthorn sits on top of the ladder with just one defeat this season, ironically against Geelong in round one, the tenth straight win the Cats have celebrated over their arch nemesis, who sit in second with just one less win.
These two teams have provided classic spectacles since the famous 2008 Grand Final, which Hawthorn won by 26 points, stealing it from the Cats. Geelong went through the normal season with only one loss and they were the best team by far. But ultimately, the Cats could not win on the most important day of the year and the Hawks cruised to victory. Whether it is mental demons or the ‘Kennett Curse’, the Cats have somehow not lost to the men in brown and gold since that day.
They have won the last ten matches by an average of 7.6 points, with their most famous victory coming last year. In a critical part of the season, the Cats came from behind to beat the Hawks by two points in round 19. Hawthorn was vying for a top of the ladder finish, while the Cats were desperately seeking a home elimination final. In a quick transition of play with only seconds remaining, the Cats moved the ball from half back to Tom Hawkins, who marked 50 metres from goal. The Cats were down by four points and Hawkins had the chance to kick the winning goal as the siren sounded. Hawkins fulfilled this boyhood dream, slotting the goal, and it is credited as one of the best games of that season.
Back to this year’s game – both of these teams have a massive chance of playing in the Grand Final. The Hawks have had smooth sailing so far and will go into this game with nearly their strongest side of the season. Geelong has been consistent so far this year, but has suffered disappointing losses against Collingwood and Brisbane. t is a season defining match as there are many implications to both teams if they lose.
Hawthorn meets the highly-rated Essendon outfit in round 18, the rapidly improving Richmond the following round, Collingwood in round 21 and flies north to meet Sydney in the last round of the season.
Geelong has an easier second half to the season but has critical games against West Coast away in round 21 and the reigning premiers Sydney the following round. They have the easier run home, but both teams will be desperately seeking a win on Saturday night, as this can give a clearer indication to who can get a home qualifying final.
This heavyweight mid-season battle will be won by which team can produce the better mental toughness, skill and desperation. Geelong’s Tom Lonergan has had the pressure of handling the Hawk’s spearhead forward Lance Franklin and is expected to take charge again. Both team’s midfields are elite, with Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell and Luke Hodge leading Hawthorn, while Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Corey and James Kelly will run out for Geelong.
The MCG is lucky enough to be home to the massive Carlton vs. Collingwood encounter this weekend, but the Geelong vs Hawthorn clash takes superiority at an important part of the season. This may be the time that Hawthorn can finally break the Cats’ unbeaten streak, but it will most certainly paint a better picture for who are genuine premiership competitors.