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'Get the hearse for the curse'

Rivals: Hawkins and Isaac, friendly foes Tom Hawkins and Isaac Smith chat about their Cats v Hawks rivalry, that curse and some epic grand final tussles.
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ELEVEN straight wins.

That was Geelong's winning streak after Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett publicly questioned the Cats players' mental drive in 2009, just months after the Hawks' upset win in the 2008 Grand Final.

"What they don't have, I think, is the quality of some of our players. They don't have the psychological drive we have. We've beaten Geelong when it matters," Kennett said.

Geelong star Paul Chapman revealed a pact was formed in the wake of Kennett's inflammatory comments. The Cats players vowed they would never lose to Hawthorn again. The Kennett Curse was born, and the teams met in the 2013 preliminary final with Geelong out to extend their dominant streak to 12 games.

Hawthorn president and former Victoria Premier Jeff Kennett (l) with Hawk coach Alastair Clarkson. All pictures: AFL Photos

How the match unfolded

Chapman, the Kennett Curse's originator, was suspended for the prelim after a high bump on Port Adelaide's Robbie Gray in the previous week's semi-final.

In his absence, Steve Johnson stepped and up and kicked four goals in the first three quarters. It was a champagne display that gave the Cats the upper hand despite Hawthorn's inside-50 dominance.

With seconds ticking down before three-quarter time, Jordan Murdoch – the most inexperienced player on the ground – snapped brilliantly to put Geelong 20 points clear.

Hawk superstar Lance Franklin kicked his solitary major after the last change, but Josh Caddy answered and with 13 minutes played the Cats' lead remained 19 points.

Superstar Cat Stevie J starred once again on the big stage.

Cam Guthrie gets the ball away under pressure from Hawthorn's Jordan Lewis ...

... before Josh Caddy kicks a last-quarter goal to keep the Cats three goals in front

The hero

Who else but Shaun Burgoyne?

The Hawks peppered the sticks with 10 unanswered scoring shots after Caddy's goal, but with six minutes on the clock they still trailed by four points.

Seconds after Luke Breust had missed a straightforward set shot, he made amends by creating a turnover, cutting off an Andrew Mackie handball.

Tackled by Cat Jared Rivers, Breust forced a handball to Jordan Lewis. Lewis found Jack Gunston, who sent Burgoyne into an open goal.

The Hawks had come from the clouds and led by two points with six minutes to play.

Burgoyne wheels away after completing Hawthorn's final-term comeback.

The moment

Geelong trailed by six points with a minute remaining when Johnson's brilliant left-foot pulled kick into the corridor found the chest of Steven Motlop.

Motlop slipped up at an inopportune time, but Johnson's follow-up work was superb and he found Varcoe.

Get the hearse for the curse!"

With a chance to square the game and perhaps change the course of football history, Varcoe gathered a ball that almost slipped through his fingertips.

He kicked on goal but it veered agonisingly to the right, and the behind would prove the match's final score.

Varcoe stabs for goal under pressure from Brad Sewell.

The siren

What siren?

Leaving the Cats chasing shadows in the final minute, the Hawks streamed forward, and as the seconds ticked down the ball was kicked in the direction of Cyril Rioli, who had been kept goalless by a 21-year-old Cam Guthrie.

"Get the hearse for the curse!" was legendary commentator Dennis Cometti's cry in the Channel Seven box.

The siren sounded, but it was drowned out by the din created by 85,569 fans in the MCG.

Rioli attempted to pass to Franklin in the goal square, and several more seconds elapsed before players realised it was over, the Hawks celebrating their place in the 2013 AFL Grand Final and the Cats slumping over in despair.

Elation as the Hawks finally realise they've ended the Kennett curse and reached the Grand Final ...

... but it's agony for Varcoe and his Geelong teammates

The little-known fact

Hawthorn's rucks dominated the inexperienced Cats duo of Nathan Vardy and Mark Blicavs.

Winning the hit-out count 43-25, David Hale and Max Bailey had a big say on the final outcome.

Hale was the game's most influential big man, collecting 18 hit-outs, 15 disposals, taking a game-high three contested marks and booting two goals.

KILLING THE CURSE Read the match report from the 2013 preliminary final

HALE'S BIG IMPACT How AFL.com.au rated the Hawks players

Hale squares up to Cat champ Jimmy Bartel

The heartbreak

Brendan Whitecross was just five minutes away from his first Grand Final berth, but late in the final quarter the Hawk utility took off to chase an opponent and found little strength in his knee.

Heading to the bench, he had his worst fears realised by the Hawthorn medicos.

Amidst the commotion of the final siren, Whitecross limped out to celebrate, his Hawks teammates not knowing his dream was over.

What they said

"It's nice and romantic and it's a great topic of conversation for so many people around the country. But the basic thing for us is that we'd worked really hard as a footy club all year to finish on top of the ladder, and played really well in a qualifying final against Sydney." – Alastair Clarkson on the end of the Kennett Curse.

"We're all devastated, understandably. But I'm really proud of our players, and I told them that straight after the game. We weren't quite good enough on the night. Hawthorn were." – Chris Scott on the impact of the loss

What happened next

The Hawks outlasted Fremantle the following Saturday to claim their first premiership since the 2008 triumph.

GRAND REVENGE Hawks atone for 2012 loss

Despite Franklin's shock defection to Sydney weeks later, the flag would be the first of a historic three-peat.

Chapman failed to play another game for Geelong, heading to Essendon in the off-season to join premiership Cats James Podsaidly (Adelaide), Josh Hunt (GWS) and Trent West (Brisbane) at new clubs.

What's changed since

Though the curse is buried, the Cats and Hawks continue to write chapters in one of modern footy's greatest rivalries.

The record since 2013 stands at 5-5 and has featured several more epic encounters.

Isaac Smith's miss after the siren in the 2016 qualifying final handed the Cats a two-point win, while the Hawks held on to claim a one-point nail biter in round two this year.

 

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