BOTP: Waverley Wizardry

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Another edition of the classic game review and despite appreciating going back every week and looking at the history of this club, this week is the one I am most excited for.

My guess is 95% of you reading this already know what the game is going to be so I won’t waste our time teasing it.

It is infamously known as the comeback game and for very good reason.

The year was 1999 (for the second week in a row!) and the Hawks were 4-1-6 while the Saints were sitting comfortably in the top five with seven wins and four losses.

As we learned last week, the 1999 version of the Hawks weren’t the best starters and that was as brutally evident as it ever was in Round 12 against the Saints.

The Hawks went into the quarter-time huddle down 51 points, a margin that was tough to comprehend for commentators and fans around the ground.

Nathan Thompson for the Hawks leads the team onto the ground for the round 15 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the West Coast Eagles at York...
Nathan Thompson was a man on a mission in this game and a cult hero for the Hawks | Getty Images

Hawthorn was completely and utterly outplayed in the first quarter and the Saints looked like the AFL equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

When the Saints were able to kick the first two goals of the second quarter and extend the margin to 63 points, Hawks fans genuinely started leaving the stadium.

There is a famous saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Hawks personified this quote in this game.

It was impossible to kick a goal worth 63 points, but little wins were important and finishing the second quarter by kicking the last three goals gave the group some spirit going into the rooms.

The third quarter was when the Brown and Gold floodgates opened and with the freedom a young side feels when playing from behind, it was electrifying.

Nathan Thompson started things off with the first two goals of the quarter, making it five in a row combined with the three before halftime.

Paul Salmon was the next Hawk to goal, taking a towering mark and converting, only one of his big moments in what could be one of the greatest individual ruck games of all time.

Next was the Daniel Harford show, kicking a snap goal from a clearance thanks to a perfect Paul Salmon tap and then streaming through the middle for his second in a row.

The free-flowing football played by Hawthorn was admired by the commentators and the cohesiveness of this young team was remarkable.

A 100-metre penalty conceded by future Hawk Spider Everett summed up where the momentum of the game was at, with the Hawks being relentless in their attack.

Paul Salmon for Hawthorn celebrates their win after the round 22 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Hawthorn Hawks played at Colonial...
Paul Salmon was a team of the century player for to clubs and dominated at the Hawks ~ Getty Images

Ten third-quarter goals from the Brown and Gold and this game went from a genuine yawn fest to box office television.

From a 63-point deficit early in the second to a 44-point deficit at halftime, the Hawks had shuffled the lead down to a three-point deficit at three-quarter time, thanks to Nick Holland kicking a goal after the siren.

It was Holland again early in the fourth who gave the Hawks their first lead of the game and the Saints had completely gone to water.

The free-flowing football that was seen earlier in the game took its toll on both sides with the scoring drying up in the last quarter with Holland’s goal the only one for the first 20 minutes of the term.

In the age of long interchange spells, a young Hawk named Ben Dixon had spent a large amount of time watching from the Waverly benches.

Shane Crawford for Hawthorn celebrates after Hawthorn defeated Carlton during the round 17 AFL match played between the Hawthorn Hawks and the...
Has there been a leader more loved than Crawf? Maybe Hodgey but how do you not love Crawf? ~ Getty Images

Looking to inject some life into the game, coach Ken Judge put Dixon into the game hoping he can land the last blow on the Saints and he delivered.

With only four minutes left in the game, he ran onto a loose ball and used his signature left leg to bomb a goal from 55 metres out, giving his team a seven-point lead.

It wasn’t over yet, with Dixon taking a one-handed mark 60 metres out, taking his time before delivering a high ball to the goal square and Nick Holland stood tall again.

Dutchy took a massive pack mark, wasted some time and booted his fifth, putting Hawthorn up by 13 points and securing the greatest comeback victory of all time.

This mark would be passed by Essendon just two years later, but the significance of this effort does not sit any less historically.

Nick Holland of Hawthorn handpasses whilst being tackled by Josh Fraser for Collingwood, in the round 16 match between the Collingwood Magpies and...
Nick Holland (‘Dutchy’) had a day out against the Saints ~ Getty Images

The final score read:

Hawthorn: 17.7.109

St Kilda: 14.12.96

Nick Holland was the man, dominating the game around the ground with 17 disposals, 12 marks and five goals while Paul Salmon was huge with 38 hit-outs, 16 disposals and two goals of his own.

While there were stand-outs, the style of play that was played required 18 players on the field on the same page and this young Hawk team did it to perfection.

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