All-Australian captain this week, Hawthorn can vouch for Joel Selwood’s credentials as a leader.
All-Australian captain this week, Hawthorn can vouch for Joel Selwood’s credentials as a leader. Quinn Rooney getty Images

Do arch rivals have curse for concern?

LEGEND has it that after Geelong collected its sixth VFL premiership by beating Hawthorn in the 1963 grand final, coach Bobby Davis buried a dead hawk under the Kardinia Park surface, triggering a curse that would haunt the club for 44 years.

In truth, the charismatic Davis did bury a hawk, but only a plastic one that joined other toy figurines such as a magpie and a bomber, and so it was unlikely that old 'Bobby' actually upset the footy gods with his ceremonial sacrifice.

But there was absolutely no doubt Geelong did suffer for many years after that triumph in '63, and to Hawthorn at crucial times.

They made the 'Big One' in 1967, when beaten by Richmond, but the Cats wouldn't contest another grand final for more than two decades.

And when they finally did, in 1989, they suffered heartbreak with the Hawks holding on to win one of the great premiership-deciders by just six points, and, in doing so, made it a ninth straight defeat over the Cats.

That winning run, which began in 1985 and included a home-and-away match in 1989 that saw the Cats lead 108-59 at half-time, only to go down 171-163, would eventually end at 11 games midway through 1991.

But the Hawks again stood in the way of a Cats premiership later that year when they won the all-important second semi-final by two points, after trailing 49-32 at the main break, advancing straight to the grand final and earning a week off.

While the Cats would be beaten the next week by West Coast, the Hawks would crush the Eagles the week after and claim an eighth flag since '63.

The Cats managed to reach three of the next four grand finals - but losing them all, to West Coast (1992, 1994) and Carlton (1995), they would remain empty-handed in the same period.

Davis passed on his trusty shovel to then coach Mark Thompson in 2007 when Geelong was finally able to bury its premiership hoodoo after putting Port Adelaide to the sword - and break Hawthorn's record of biggest win in a grand final.

But though hints that a curse over Geelong remained when Hawthorn prevented it from going back-to-back in 2008, the new premier itself become damned when its then president, Jeff Kennett, spruiked that the Cats "don't have the psychological drive we have ... we've beaten Geelong when it matters".

The Cats, of course, have gone on to win two of the next four premierships and, decisively, 11 games straight against the Hawks, creating the most intriguing rivalry of modern times.

For the Hawks, the losing streak has become as unsettling as watching Wati Holmwood's naked run during rugby league's State of Origin III this year.

Nine of the games have been decided by 10 points or less, with two of them needing a kick after the final siren to determine the winner, and in six of the matches Hawthorn has led comfortably.

While they have only clashed once in a final in that time - in the 2011 qualifying final - tonight Geelong has the chance to make it a 12th straight win in a game that really "matters".

If the Hawks can win, there may be calls to bury Kennett under the surface at Waverley Park. Then again, if they lose, they may still want to bury him.

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