BOTP: A Hero’s Last Hurrah

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In this edition of the classic game review, we are looking at our history against the Western Bulldogs.

Entering the then VFL at the same time in 1925, Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs (formerly Footscray) have played in several genuine classics. 

From the days of Peter Hudson kicking bags, to Jason Dunstall’s 14 at Waverley and Buddy’s magic in a Qualifying Final, the big forwards have featured heavily in this contest.

When looking through all these magical games, there was one game particularly that stood out to me and it was the night we farewelled a legend. 

Let me take you back to round 23 2017 and the Hawks were coming up against the reigning premiers at Etihad stadium (now known as Marvel of course).

Whilst neither team was playing for the prestige of a finals berth, the stakes were still high with several send-offs happening at the same time. 

The Bulldogs were saying goodbye to club favourite Bob Murphy who had sadly ruptured his ACL against Hawthorn the year prior costing him a premiership, as well as Matthew Boyd who was a star of the club for a long time.

Luke Hodge of the Hawks celebrates during the 2017 AFL round 23 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on August...
A great to the end as Hodgey delivers a thumbs up to the adoring fans | Getty images


Of course, though, we are here for the Hawthorn aspect and this was the night we farewelled one of the greatest players this club has seen, Luke Hodge.

Hodgey was a four-time premiership player, three of those as captain as well as Peter Crimmins Medalist, two-time norm smith medalist and several All-Australian honours. 

The game started regularly for a contest under the roof and that was fast! 

Both teams were trading blows throughout the first quarter and fighting for ascendancy in the game, with the last gamer Murphy nailing a bomb to grab the momentum.

A smother and handball by a young first gamer named Harry Morrison set up an Isaac Smith goal which was a beautiful illustration of the theme of the game, saying goodbye and appreciating the old but also welcoming the new.

The Hawks held a seven-point lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a dominant three-goal quarter by Hawks spearhead Jarryd Roughead.

Quarter number two was much of the same, with the two teams going back and forth, each looking to send off their champion players in the right fashion. 

Then youngster, now senior captain James Sicily launched a late quarter goal from sixty metres out, that he enjoyed going off his reaction and the Hawks led by 13 at the main break.

Despite this being a game of celebration, there was an unfortunate side story around this game and that was the absence of departing Hawthorn star Josh Gibson.

A groin injury seriously derailed his 2017 campaign and forced Gibson into retirement, sadly unable to say goodbye to Hawks fans one last time on the field.

Gibson played in three premierships for the Hawks, winning best and fairest in two of those seasons which is one of the more sacred honours in the AFL, as well as playing 160 games for the club.

The third quarter was a genuine arm wrestle, with both sides only managing three goals each, Roughead’s fourth kicking around the corner was the highlight of the quarter.

2017’s final quarter for the Hawks and the Bulldogs was a mixture of offensive genius, defensive grit, and determination. 

Luke Hodge of the Hawks celebrates the win with fans after his retirement match during round 23 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western...
A simple message to the Messiah himself; Thank You Hodgey | Getty Images

Paul Puopulo took one of these signature hangers and went back to slot the goal, as well as the Big Rough, kicked his fifth for the game making it a bag. 

Then it was the Bulldogs’ turn to bring the heat and they came storming home late, forcing the Hawks to defend with all of their strength to hold on to the four points.

Blake Hardwick foiled a Liam Picken opportunity and then the general in the number 15 gave us one more massive spoil over the fence, a symbolic moment that encapsulated his 16-year story in Brown and Gold 

AFL scriptwriters were wearing Brown and Gold on this occasion, allowing us to send off one of our greatest players ever as a winner.

The final score read:

Hawthorn 15.9.99

Western Bulldogs 13.12.90

The standouts for the Hawks were Jarryd Roughead with 19 disposals and kicking the five majors, James Sicily had 31 disposals and kicked a goal in a sign of his future role and Isaac Smith had 21 disposals and kicked three goals.

Luke Hodge of the Hawks, Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs and Matthew Boyd of the Bulldogs are chaired from the field after their last matches during...
A trio of stars say goodbye; Hodge (to the Hawks), Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd | Getty Images

Whilst the significance of the four points was small regarding the AFL ladder, it was one of the more significant in recent times for the memories. 

Having Luke Hodge chaired off the ground to the sound of the Hawthorn theme song one last time just felt like the right way to finish.

It is regarded by many fans as one of their favourite games that they have been at live and who can blame them?

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