This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant debuts in Hawthorn history.
It was on Saturday 22 April 1967 that Peter Hudson began his illustrious career in the brown and gold in a Round 2 game against Carlton at Princes Park. While Hudson made a solid debut kicking four goals, it was not a happy day for the team as the Hawks only kicked 6.8.44 to Carlton’s 12.16.88.
Hudson, recruited from New Norfolk in Tasmania, finished with 57 goals in 17 games in his first year, before delivering stellar performances in the next four seasons – 125 (1968), 120 (1969), 146 (1970) and 150 (1971). Injury at the start of 1972 interrupted his career, before he returned to kick another century in 1977. In total, Hudson kicked 727 goals in just 129 games at the stunning average of 5.64 goals per game. He was a key reason why the struggling Hawthorn team of early 1967 improved sufficiently to win the 1971 Premiership.
Another anniversary this week is the 30th anniversary of the first game played between Hawthorn and West Coast. In Round 5 1987, the inaugural meeting was held at Princes Park and the Eagles upset the reigning Premiers by 12 points – 13.14.92 to 15.14.104. The Eagles hold an overall lead of 26 to 22 in games between the clubs, but the Hawks have generally held sway at the MCG, winning five (including the 2015 Grand Final) and losing just once.
It was also a Round 5 game against West Coast which produced what was surely the most stunning week-to-week turnaround in Hawthorn history.
In Rounds 2 to 4 of 1994 the Hawks lost three matches by a combined total of 268 points including crushing defeats to North Melbourne by 127 points and Carlton by 87 points. Thus, the Hawks were given no chance against the high-flying Eagles when they travelled to Subiaco in Round 5 1994.
However, the return from injury of Jason Dunstall, Chris Langford and Jason Taylor transformed the team, and, after a slow start, the Hawks stunned the home crowd by taking complete control and winning by 71 points - 19.15.129 to 8.10.58. Jason Dunstall kicked five goals and debutant Tim Hargreaves four, while the leading possession-getters were Anthony Condon (30) and Darren Jarman (25).
In this Anzac Day round, we should remember the ten Hawthorn League players who lost their lives in the Second World War, or died as a result as a result of war wounds, or war-related illness – Jack Drake, Alf Giblett, Bruce Hone, Alex Nash, Richard Pirrie, Jack Price, Len Thomas, Max Wheeler, Leo ‘Gus’ Young and Harold Zucker.
There were also a number of players who represented the club in its days in the Metropolitan Junior Football Association and VFA who lost their lives on active duty in the First World War. Their names include Hugh Callan, John Collins, Don McConville, Joe Slater and Joseph Sorby.
Never in Hawthorn history have two such good players debuted together as when Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge did so 15 years ago this week, in Round 5 2002. Since that game against Richmond at the MCG, both men captained the club, won seven Crimmins Medals between them and played together in four Premiership teams.
To add to the significance of the day, 2008 Premiership ruckman Robert Campbell also debuted on the same game. The match saw Hawthorn beat Richmond by 42 points, with Nick Holland and Daniel Chick each kicking four goals and Angelo Lekkas having the most disposals (27).
The last time Hawthorn began a season with four defeats was in 1998, a poor start which came off the back of eight consecutive losses at the end of 1997. However, the run of 12 losses ended in Round 5 1998 when the Hawks defeated Brisbane Lions by 41 points – 18.16.124 to 12.11.83. Jason Dunstall kicked six goals and got the three Brownlow votes, while the other vote-getters were Paul Salmon and Richard Taylor.
If Hawthorn loses this week, it will be the club’s longest losing sequence at the start of a season since losing the first seven games in 1970. In that case, the Hawks then proceeded to win 10 of the remaining 15 games that season and 21 of 24 in the Premiership-winning 1971 season.
Hawthorn has played 91 games in Round 5 for 40 wins and 51 losses (having a bye in 1993). In recent seasons it has been a mixed round for the club, with a 3-3 record in the past six seasons. The most recent Round 5 match against West Coast was in 2009 in Launceston when the Hawks won a low-scoring encounter by 18 points.
In Round 5 1969 Peter Hudson kicked a club record 16 goals against Melbourne at Glenferrie. It remains the record for the round and has only been beaten once in any other round, by Jason Dunstall’s 17 against Richmond in 1992. Dunstall held the record for the most goals by a Hawthorn player against West Coast, kicking seven in both 1988 and 1989, until he was surpassed by Jarryd Roughead’s eight against them in Launceston in 2014.