By Tom Sermani @tom_sermani
Hawthorn $1.54 -11.5
Geelong $2.65 +13.5
Points Total Line: 178.5
Hawthorn: Won four of last five – only loss to Fremantle in round 21.
Geelong: Won four of last five – only loss to Hawthorn in round 22.
Over/Under Points Record:
Hawthorn: 15 over, 7 under (7/4 at MCG)
Geelong: 9 over, 13 under (1/4 at MCG)
Hawthorn: Stratton, Hill and Hodge return in place of Schoenmakers, Hartung and Litherland.
Geelong: Motlop, Johnson and McIntosh return for Smedts, McCarthy and Brown.
Steve Johnson returns for the Cats after several weeks out with a foot injury that appeared to linger a lot longer than was initially expected.
Johnson has not been seen in public for weeks before today without the assistance of crutches so his fitness cannot be anywhere near 100% and this game could be as much about getting him somewhere near match fit for next week as anything else.
The importance of Tom Hawkins to this Geelong side cannot be underestimated. He is the forward they look to more than any other and the Cats rely on his presence probably more than any other team and key forward in the competition.
I doubted Hawkins’ fitness on these pages recently and was subsequently proved wrong as he scored 10 goals in the next two matches with seven of them coming last week against the Lions after three against the Hawks the week before.
Hawkins’ battle with Brian Lake is the key match up in this match.
Brian Lake did not play last week and he’ll need to be 100% fit to keep Tom Hawkins quiet. He’s been one of the best defenders in the AFL for many years and he’ll be keen to make amends for getting suspended earlier in the season for his untimely encounter with the throat of North Melbourne’s Drew Petrie.
Will Langford has been little short of a revelation for the Hawks in 2014 after playing just one game last season, his first in the AFL. He’s averaged 18 disposals in the 16 games he’s played this year but, importantly, three of the four times he’s gone over 22 disposals have been against other Premiership contenders. In round 8 he had 23 against the Swans, in round 21 he had 24 against Fremantle and in round 22, in the win over Geelong, Langford was pivotal with 23 disposals and two goals.
Last 10 meetings between the teams:
Geelong have won eight of the last ten, Hawthorn two of the last three.
Average winning margin is 12.3 points.
Five of the ten have had a margin of 10 points or less.
The two sides met as recently as round 22 when the Cats led 51 to 20 at half time before capitulating under a very different Hawks performance in the second period to go down by 71 points to 94.
This win for the Hawks put a final and very welcome nail in the ‘Kennett’s Curse’ coffin as that made it two wins from the last three meetings for the Hawks.
Many will dismiss the match in round 22 as one to put a metaphorical line through from a form perspective but with Geelong seemingly having a hold over the Hawks for so long the psychological advantage could now have swung 180 degrees and be with Hawthorn, especially the way they came back in the second half after being out played in the first half. If Hawthorn trail at half time both the Hawks and Cats players will be expecting the Hawks to come back into the match in no uncertain way.
I can see this game being another close one with it hopefully opening up in the second half as both teams go for the win in the knowledge that neither team will be knocked out should they lose the match but with both looking for the advantages a win would bring them.
The average second half points total across the last ten meetings has been 94.8, with five going over 94 points, including the last three.