Tom Hawkins celebrates a goal during Geelong's clash against Hawthorn in round three, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

TOM HAWKINS has now played 350 games, but he has never played one like this. Before the 35-year-old was carried off the MCG after his milestone appearance, the game paused for more than 40 minutes due to severe weather, delaying a night of celebration for one of Geelong's modern-day greats.

While the Stawell Gift was delayed by more than two hours due to lightning and a downpour of rain earlier in the day, the traditional Easter Monday blockbuster became a classic by the time the final siren finally sounded to confirm a 36-point Geelong win. 

HAWKS v CATS Full match coverage and stats

Before the 17.4 (106) to 10.10 (70) result, the MCG had descended into chaos. Both sides vacated the ground just before the start of the fourth quarter when the margin was 36 points due to the threat of lightning in the vicinity of Yarra Park. It meant the longest round of the season lasted even longer than planned.

But after starting its premiership defence 0-3 and eventually watching on last September, Geelong is 3-0 and firmly back in premiership contention yet again under two-time premiership coach Chris Scott. It now heads to Gather Round as one of only four undefeated sides in the competition, along with Greater Western Sydney, Fremantle and Carlton. 


Hawkins became only the 24th player in VFL/AFL history to reach 350 games on Easter Monday. He started the day one goal behind Richmond great Jack Riewoldt in 14th spot on the all-time list, and by the time Mitch Duncan and Jeremy Cameron carried him off the MCG, he moved within 10 goals of the 800-goal club after celebrating his milestone with four majors in front of 67,020 people. 

Ollie Henry also kicked four goals in the wet, including the sealer midway through the last quarter after Hawthorn had the first six scoring shots and all the momentum, while Tanner Bruhn – the other former first-round pick that moved to Kardinia Park at the end of 2022 – collected a career-high 27 disposals, 15 contested possessions and nine clearances in the best performance of his burgeoning career. 

It only took 10 minutes for Hawkins to start terrorising a side he has a long history with, even if that felt like yesterday by the end of play. Cameron made the Hawks pay after a moment to forget for Luke Breust. The Hawthorn veteran was strolling inside 50 and had Mitch Lewis open in the goalsquare, but Tom Stewart made him hesitate, once, then twice, and he slipped, missing a certain goal. While the Hawks wasted certainties, Geelong kicked low percentage goals from nowhere. By the first break, the Cats led by six goals and the game was almost over. 


After missing last week with a foot injury, Bruhn amassed 15 disposals in the first quarter alone to set the tone. Max Holmes went to work on the outside like he was running down the straight at the Stawell Gift. 

For the third weekend in row, James Sicily was under siege down back, particularly early. But the All-Australian defender stemmed the bleeding. Hawthorn then radically improved its pressure, highlighted best when Mabior Chol ran down Zach Guthrie inside 50 and converted the goal. 

Jack Ginnivan and Nick Watson got under the skin of Geelong's vaunted back six, including vice-captain Stewart. The recruit and the top-five pick look made to play together. And they made the Cats pay in the second quarter. 

When Lewis hauled in a towering pack mark and nailed the set shot, everything was working for Hawthorn's forward line, except for a chance the 'Wizard' missed that he would have kicked hundreds of times in the past decade. Fortunately, Chol added his second just before the main break and a game that looked almost dead at quarter-time was resuscitated. Hawthorn kicked five goals to one in the second term.


 Chol kicked his third goal three minutes into the third quarter to reduce the margin to under a kick, but that was as close as the game would get. Toby Conway plucked a big contested grab in his second game and ended a run of five consecutive goals. Tyson Stengle was gifted a shot from the boundary after a dubious insufficient intent call was paid against Hawthorn. Henry left Sicily incensed but didn't nail his chance, as the rain started to pelt the MCG. 

The Cats' superior experience mastered the slippery conditions. Mitch Duncan stepped up and was involved in everything with 11 touches and a long-range goal in the third term after missing the win over Adelaide in round two due to a late dash home to be at the birth of his fourth child. Geelong kicked six goals to almost put the game to bed. That was before the delay changed everything. 

When play resumed, Ginnivan needed just 27 seconds to ignite a crowd that had gone cold, breathing life into the Hawks by marking and goaling deep inside 50. Game on. Lloyd Meek and James Worpel missed shots in the teeming rain. It was all Hawthorn late. Most of the crowd didn't leave during the delay and were rewarded for staying. 


Watson finally kicked his first goal of the game – and second of his career – in a moment of magic after missing three shots to start the day and the margin was just 20 points with 10 minutes to play. But Henry, playing in front, took a mark and kicked the sealer to end the Hawks' comeback hopes.

Bolt halts play
The last time a game was stopped due to lightning was when Melbourne survived a late charge from West Coast at Optus Stadium in round 21, 2021. Play was halted for 29 minutes on a wild night in the west. The delay was even longer on Easter Monday, but fans weren't bored in the break. Two pitch invaders ran onto the ground while the rain continued to bucket down. 


Terrific Tanner 
Tanner Bruhn was selected at pick No.12 in 2020 for a reason. The former Greater Western Sydney midfielder showed signs of his quality last year, but on Easter Monday, the 21-year-old stamped himself as a star of the future. Bruhn finished with a career-high 27 disposals, 15 contested possessions, nine clearances and five tackles in a brilliant display in difficult conditions. Geelong's midfield is in transition. In Bruhn, the Cats have a long-term option.

Tale of two ruckmen
Lloyd Meek and Toby Conway have had to be patient. Both ruckmen got their chance on Easter Monday. Meek played 16 games in his first season at Hawthorn, but was behind Ned Reeves for most of the year. But after replacing Reeves in round three, the former Docker finished with 41 hitouts and 16 disposals in the wet. Conway looms as the long-term No.1 ruckman at Kardinia Park and after showing his promise in a round 24 debut last year, finished with 19 hitouts, 11 touches and a goal.


HAWTHORN          1.1     6.3       8.4     10.10 (70)
GEELONG              7.1     8.2     14.4     17.4 (106)

Hawthorn: Chol 3, Mackenzie 2, Worpel, Watson, Macdonald, Lewis, Ginnivan
O.Henry 4, Hawkins 4, Stengle 2, Cameron 2, Miers, Holmes, Duncan, Conway, Close

Hawthorn: Worpel, Nash, Chol, Meek, Newcombe
Duncan, O.Henry, Bruhn, Holmes, Stewart, Hawkins

Hawthorn: Lewis (hamstring), Watson (ankle)

Hawthorn: Harry Morrison (replaced Henry Hustwaite in the third quarter)
Jack Bowes (replaced Tom Atkins at three-quarter time)

Crowd: 67,020 at the MCG