BOTP: The Eagle Has Landed!

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The 2023 version of Hawthorn vs West Coast may be a battle of the worst two teams in the AFL, with the prize of the number one pick in sight.

However, it hasn’t always been this way with the two clubs being two of the most successful and consistent over the last 30 years. 

With finals campaigns a plenty and two grand final encounters, there have been some fantastic games across the journey between the two sides. 

The game I have settled on is Round 20, 1999 with the Hawks travelling across to the WACA to take on a finals-bound West Coast side. 

Hawthorn was sitting in the bottom four coming into the game and with no mathematical chance of sneaking into the finals, you could argue it was a nothing game.

The young Hawks did not want a bar of that sentiment and went across the Nullarbor with only one goal in mind; stealing the four points. 

Shane Crawford for Hawthorn in action in the round 16 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Hawthorn Hawks at Colonial Stadium, Melbourne,...
Crawf’s 1999 campaign was so dominant that he won a Brownlow Medal when the Hawks didn’t play finals | Getty Images

It was the Eagles who got off to a fast start, kicking the first five goals of the game in what was a dominant first-quarter effort. 

With goals to Scott Cummings, Michael Gardiner and Fraser Gehrig, the young and inexperienced Hawks back six looked to be in for a long and painful evening. 

At the first change, West Coast led by 31 points and considering the ladder positions of the teams, it was hard to see this being a competitive game.

Considering the youth in the Brown and Gold, it may have been difficult to imagine someone dragging the Hawks back into it.

Enter Shane Crawford

The Brownlow Medal favourite and eventual winner put on an absolute clinic in the second quarter, kicking two goals from the midfield and running amok in the middle of the ground.

Trent Croad of the Hawks in the huddle at the quarter time break during the round one Wizard Cup AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the...
Trent Croad was a fan favourite in both of his stints at the Hawks and he was a part of the winning side in 1999. | Getty Images

West Coast was still playing some quality football, but without the Hawk superstar wearing the number nine, the result would have been put out of reach. 

At the main break, it was West Coast still leading by 20 points, doing enough to keep the young and plucky Hawks at arm’s length. 

The third quarter was when things started to shift and the game was genuinely flipped on its head. 

Momentum is a beautiful thing in football for both a team and an individual and when someone can grasp it like Crawford did in the second it would go a long way.

This time the quarter belonged to small forward Aaron Lord. 

Coming off a six-goal performance the week before against Melbourne, Lord kicked three third-quarter goals, with Joel Smith nabbing the fourth of the quarter. 

Not only did the Hawks kick four goals for the quarter, they were able to keep the Eagles goalless, with some thanks having to go to their inaccurate goal-kicking, with eight behinds. 

After looking like potentially being a non-event after the first thirty minutes, the margin was now two points at the final change and this was looking like a belter.

It was Nathan Thompson who put his hand up early in the last quarter, taking a strong mark and kicking truly, giving the Hawks their first lead of the night. 

West Coast wasn’t ready to give it away, with the next two goals making it ten points with not long to go. 

With Crawford and Lord making their mark on the game in their own ways, Hawthorn needed two more heroes and luckily for us, we had two among us that night. 

Tony Woods kicked a long goal with two minutes left on the clock and the Hawks regained their two-point lead from earlier in the quarter.

Joel Smith for Hawthorn contemplates his teams loss, in the match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Port Adelaide Power, during round ten of the AFL...
Joel Smith snagged three in an unlikely offensive cameo that got the Hawks the four points | Getty Images

Fast forward 100 seconds and Phillip Read is streaming towards the West Coast forward line, prepared to roll the dice one more time to snatch victory.

The second Hawk Hero was Michael Collica, coming off his man and smothering the attempted kick inside 50 and securing an unlikely victory. 

The final score read:

West Coast: 11.16.82

Hawthorn: 12.12.84

As mentioned throughout the piece, Shane Crawford and Aaron Lord were massive in the win, with Woods and Collica having their big moments late. 

Crawf’s 32 disposals were a game-high, with 12 contested possessions and eight clearances showing the brute force in which he attacked a West Coast midfield that had Ben Cousins (26 touches), Chad Morrison (26), Dean Kemp (24) and Drew Banfield (18).

Lord’s 3.2 made up five of his six disposals, while Craig Trevelen’s 21 disposals, six clearances and five inside 50’s shouldn’t go untalked about either.

Joel Smith proved an unlikely goal kicker, kicking three on the night and despite only having two players with 20 disposals or more, only three had less than ten. 

This win can be identified as an important moment in the success that was to come for this group, with finals appearances and wins in 2000 and 2001.

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