BOTP: An Earlier Waverley Thriller

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We are back on the classic game review and we have another double-up, looking at the second classic game between the Hawks and the Saints.

Earlier in the year, we looked at the largest comeback victory in the clubs’ history during the 1999 season, one not to miss!

There have been plenty of classic games with the Saints across the journey but I am going back to the 1990s again for this one. 

The 1997 season was a rocky one for the Hawks, but you could say that the season peaked at the very start. 

Round one 1997 the Hawks played the Saints at Waverley, in a season where St Kilda would go on to play on the last Saturday in September.

The young Hawks were keen as mustard to get the season started, jumping out of the blocks and kicking the first five goals of the game. 

Daniel Harford, Jon Hassall, Rayden Tallis and Nick Holland were amongst the first-quarter goals, Holland kicking two. 

The style of football played was electrifying, with the young Hawks flying the footy up and down the vast expanses of Waverley. 

Nick Holland of the Hawks wrestles with Barry Hall of the Swans during the round 19 AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at the...
In 2001, “Dutchy” wrestled Barry Hall in an epic game. In 1997, he snagged four and was a matchwinner at Waverley | Getty Images

Despite the Saints kicking the last two goals of the quarter, the quarter-time margin was still 17 points, the breeze to the left of the screen aiding the Hawks. 

The second quarter was much of the same for the Hawks, with Daniel Harford continuing his red-hot start to season 1997.

Harford went into halftime with three goals to his name out of the midfield, his hard running a feature in his game and leading to scoring opportunities. 

The halftime margin extended slightly out to 21 points, with the brown and gold faithful pleased with the first 60 minutes of the season. 

After merger talks were extinguished thanks to some tireless work by fans, the feeling was optimistic around the Hawthorn football club.

David Neitz of the Demons is challenged by Mark Graham of the Hawks during the round 16 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn...
Mark Graham could be an interceptor or a key defender (as shown here with a 1v1 on David Neitz) but his performance in Round 1, 1997 saw him get a Brownlow vote | Getty Images

The results for the season were almost irrelevant, with the overwhelming sense of relief of still having a football club providing the positive before a ball was bounced. 

Because the game was played at Waverley, of course, the wind turned at half time and the Saints were now kicking to advantage to the right of the screen. 

They made the most of their dominance throughout the quarter, kicking five goals to the Hawks’ two and making it anyone’s game at three-quarter time. 

The last quarter was a pure arm wrestle, with both teams unwilling to relinquish territory or possession of the football. 

This arm wrestle would result in one goal for each side, with a Nick Holland long bomb being the highlight of the term. 

The siren would sound and the Hawks would win the game by six points, an enthralling start to the 1997 campaign.

Final scores read:

St Kilda 10.11.71

Hawthorn 11.11.77

Nick Holland was the man up forward kicking four goals and stepping up for the unusually quiet Jason Dunstall, incredibly playing in one of his rare goalless games.

Daniel Harford was a star in the midfield, with three goals and 21 disposals, one of two Hawks to go above 20 on the night (how times have changed).

The two teams’ seasons would go in completely different directions after this wacky night at Waverley.

St Kilda would go on to finish first on the ladder and make a grand final, while the Hawks would win seven more games and finish second last, in what was a very even AFL season.

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