BOTP: The Day The Worpedo Was Born

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In the newest weekly article series coming to Talking Hawks in 2023, each week I will be visiting the archives and reviewing a classic game against the current Hawks upcoming opponent.

What better way to start than with the old enemy Essendon?

With the only rules of the series being the game had to be a home and away clash and the Hawks must have won (of course) the options for this one were endless.

However, I have settled on this absolute gem from 2018, with the Hawks beating the Bombers by 4 points on a Saturday afternoon at the home of footy!

It was Round 20 in the 2018 AFL Premiership season and the race for finals was fierce.

The Hawks came into the round at 11-7 with merely percentage keeping them within the top eight, as well as Essendon only one win away in 11th place. 

Must win game anyone?

The stage couldn’t have been better set, bitter rivals in a must win clash in front of 69,000 fans at the MCG, how good!!

Unfortunately it was the Bombers who got off to the fast start, kicking the first three goals of the game and landing the first blow of the fight onto the chin of the Hawks.

Lucky for the Hawks, this team was full of premiership class and triple premiership favourites Isaac Smith and Jack Gunston kicked important first quarter goals to steady the ship.

Tom Mitchell of the Hawks celebrates the win on the final siren during the round 20 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Essendon Bombers at...
Tom Mitchell had 43 disposals and 13 clearances in this one to torch the Bombers out of the middle of the ground | Getty Images

The second quarter was some of the smoothest football you will see, the ball flashing from end to end of the MCG, with both teams going hell for leather.

A beautiful piece of defensive play by youngster Harry Morrison lead to a Luke Breust goal from 50 and the Hawks were on fire!

With soon to be Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell piling up the possessions, it allowed Hawthorn’s dangerous forward line to get on top and take in an 11 point lead at half time.

This half time margin would be the biggest lead at a break over the course of the day, a true indicator of what a tight contest it was.

The open nature of the match continued throughout the third quarter with flashes of brilliance from Cale Hooker of Essendon and Luke Breust lighting up the MCG turf.

Journeyman Brendon Whitecross kicked a crucial goal just before three quarter time and the game was evenly poised, Hawthorn leading by a straight kick.

The start of the fourth quarter was a genuine arm wrestle, with neither team willing to budge before a Brendon Goddard brain fade.

Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks runs out during the round 20 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Essendon Bombers at Melbourne Cricket Ground on...
Just like a million other times in his Hawks tenure, it was Shaun Burgoyne who won the final clearance to stave off the Bombers | Getty Images

While kicking in from full back, Goddard overstepped the goal square line leading to a ball up, in which Jack Gunston goaled from the ensuing contest.

It was an umpire howler that got Essendon back into the game, with a terrible advantage call leading to a Jake Stringer goal and when Cale Hooker kicked a goal with 90 seconds left to bring it to four points left, anxiety was high.

Enter, the Worpedo!

In a one on one contest with All Australian Michael Hurley, rookie James Worpel managed to win the foot race and slam through a goal to seal the game.

The Hawks would finish this epic four points ahead, with score lines reading…

Hawthorn: 16.11.107

Essendon: 16.7.103

The class rose to the top in this one, with Tom Mitchell gathering a massive 43 disposals and Jack Gunston kicking five goals from his 24 disposals.

However, this game may be remembered as the Ben Stratton game.

Sporting the Hawks best mullet since Gary Ayres, Stratton was a literal wall in the last quarter, bouncing everything away from Essendon’s forward half.

In one of his finer individual games, Stratton had 19 disposals, 11 marks and five rebounds and could arguably be the game that secured him the 2019 captaincy.

Hawthorn would go on to finish top four in 2018, but couldn’t get past the reigning premiers Richmond in a qualifying final and new kid on the block Melbourne in a semi final.

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