Classic Game: Western Bulldogs

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As we draw towards the end of the 2023 season, we don’t need to stop looking back through the glorious archives. 

After a performance last week that will one day feature on this series, let’s keep the good times rolling and look back at a classic win against the Dogs. 

One of my personal favourite seasons of all time is 2001, with the Hawthorn season highlights VHS being an absolute staple in my house as a kid (and is on YouTube as well, see below). 

During the start of this season, the Hawks went on an eight-game win streak to start the season, with arguably their best performance in Round 5 against the Dogs.

Despite only having two wins from four games, the Bulldogs were coming off a massive 53-point win against eventual premiers, Brisbane, where they scored 140 points and former Hawk Paul Hudson kicking seven. 

The fast track under the roof at Docklands was where the Dogs were at their best and considering it was the Hawks first trip there for the season, it was a big test. 

When Luke Darcy kicked the first goal of the day from the boundary with only two minutes played in the first quarter, the writing was on the wall.

This was going to be a genuine shootout!!!

Jade Rawlings for Hawthorn celebrates during round five of the AFL season played between the Western Bulldogs and the Hawthorn Hawks held at Colonial...
Jade Rawlings & John Barker celebrate | Getty Images

There would be another nine goals for the term between the two teams, with the Hawks able to snatch the momentum, kicking six of them. 

Cult favourite (and my first ever badge) John Barker was on fire, kicking three goals for the quarter, showing off his signature set shot precision. 

Looking at the current climate of the AFL for a second, a ten-goal quarter is unheard of, but the funniest thing about this game is, this was one of the lowest scoring quarters.

The second quarter was the Hollywood movie, the ball flying around the field at serious speed, with a massive 14 goals between the two teams. 

Trent Croad kicked the Hawks third consecutive goal to start the second quarter, taking the lead out to an impressive 33 points, but on this day, no lead was safe.

From that point, the Dogs were able to win the quarter, kicking six goals to five after the Hawks blitz to start the quarter. 

You could easily mistake the half time score with a full time score, with the Hawks leading 14.7.91 to the Bulldogs’ 10.3.63. 

Lance Picioane of Hawthorn kicks the ball from the goal square, in the match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs, during round five...
A 20 year old Lance Picioane racked up the game high 24 disposals | Getty Images

Naturally, with that many goals on the board, players were going to put up big numbers and the Hawks had shared the load between some shifty goal kickers. 

John Barker had four goals, Trent Croad and Aaron Lord had three on the board and Nathan Thompson had kicked two, including a left foot snap from 40 metres out. 

The third quarter was mostly dominated by the Bulldogs, with 11 scoring shots compared to Hawthorn’s five. 

Luckily for those supporting the Brown and Gold, five goals and six behinds wasn’t the most efficient use of the opposition’s dominance. 

While the tri-colours were peppering the goals, the Hawks needed to keep the scoring up and an unlikely scoring threat popped up when needed. 

Veteran ruckman Shaun Rehn stepped into a fountain of youth, kicking two goals for the quarter and tallying three for the day, on a day where seemingly everything worked. 

For all their dominance, the Bulldogs still trailed by 12 points at three quarter time and despite the score being close, the Hawks never looked like losing.

Five of the first six goals in the last quarter confirmed these feelings, with the boys in Brown and Gold putting their foots back on the throat of the Dogs. 

In a move that confirmed my prior notion of everything working on the day; Jade Rawlings was flung forward, kicking three last quarter goals and getting in on the fun.

After a marathon 137 minutes, a game time never seen anymore without a serious injury (which no one likes), the Hawks could finally celebrate the win, with scores reading;

Western Bulldogs: 19.12.126

Hawthorn: 24.11.155

Despite the massive amount of goals, there wasn’t an old school full forward bag of goals, with the multiples being shared really equally.

Aaron Lord kicked six, John Barker kicked five, Trent Croad kicked four, Shaun Rehn and Jade Rawlings kicked three with Nathan Thompson rounding it out with two. 

As was a trademark of this team, the disposals were very even, with 18 of the 22 players to play in the game having double digit disposals. 

While this group never won a premiership and I have been lucky enough to see four, this will always be one of my favourite Hawthorn sides to play together.

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