Tom Hawkins celebrates his first-quarter goal in the 2022 Grand Final against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

TOM HAWKINS has turned Grand Finals before, but never like this.

A fresh-faced young pup when he enjoyed decisive late moments to swing Grand Finals Geelong's way more than a decade ago, the seasoned veteran grabbed Saturday's decider by the scruff of its neck from the outset instead.

The first two goals of a Grand Final might otherwise seem too soon to be predicted as the most influential moments of the year's biggest game. But on Saturday, they had immediately felt like the tone-setters.

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Hawkins, outmuscling Sydney's No.1 ruckman Tom Hickey from a boundary throw-in, grabbing the ball from the source, sticking it towards his boot and watching it sail through for a crucial goal.

If the first time he did it appeared a danger moment for the Swans, the second time he repeated the trick – just five minutes later – induced an immediate feeling of angst among those in red and white. This just wasn't going their way.


Although he is now a master of the art, the act of changing the forward-ruck role for the better wasn't necessarily intended. Rather, Hawkins only began practicing the unique craft as he looked to further develop other skills of his game.

"I don't ever really practise it," Hawkins told from the victorious rooms.

"I'll tell you where I did practise it. I practised the art of ruck work back in 2010 and 2011, when I was finding my way in my football journey. I learnt a lot of things about the craft of ruck work, but also ultimately as a forward.

"I get the licence to be able to have a go. My coaches give me that and my teammates support me. They don't always work. Sometimes, when they come off, they do look go. But there's many that don't. Today, we got a couple of early ones. It was brilliant."

Tom Hawkins celebrates with Geelong fans after the Cats' win in the 2022 Grand Final against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

Hawkins' goals set the platform an epic Grand Final belting that had many asking whether Robbie Williams could return for a quarter-time encore. Geelong led by 35 points by the first change, and powered to a comfortable 81-point win by full-time.

Having turned 34 earlier this year, Hawkins in many ways embodied Geelong's premiership campaign. The Cats, on Saturday, were the oldest VFL/AFL side in history – Grand Final or otherwise – and yet it hardly mattered.

Just like they were back in 2011, when Hawkins was playing in just his 79th game, the Cats were too old, too slow and too good. In his 327th match, more than a decade on, history was repeating.

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Back then, Hawkins kicked three goals in a pivotal third-quarter performance to help overpower Collingwood. In 2009, playing in his first Grand Final, he had kicked the first goal of the final term to help get the edge over St Kilda.

This time, he was determined not to leave his heroics too late. His opening majors lit the flame for a first-quarter performance where Geelong had 11 scoring shots, putting his side into a lead worth almost six goals.

Tom Hawkins celebrates a goal in the first quarter of the 2022 Grand Final between Geelong and Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

The Cats, having led by only a kick just minutes before, then piled on four goals in the space of eight minutes and 40 seconds. It was significant in helping carve open the biggest quarter-time lead in a Grand Final since 1989.

Hawthorn, who led Geelong by 40 points in that classic, held on to win by only six. But if the Cats were worried about a similar turnaround in 2022, a six-goal-to-none burst in an overwhelmingly one-sided third quarter put an end to any doubts.

Hawkins, by that stage, had already added his third major. His supposedly 'weathered' teammates – including 33-year-old Norm Smith Medal winner Isaac Smith, and 34-year-old captain Joel Selwood – were doing the damage by that point.


The job of Hawkins was already done. His opening two goals had put Geelong on a tear that saw it lead the disposal count by 46 at quarter-time, the marks by 22, the clearances by three, the contested ball by 19 and the inside-50s by 12.

The Cats' 16th straight victory this season was the sweetest of them all, handing them a fourth premiership from their sixth Grand Final in 16 years. It was just reward for a period of dominance where they had secured 13 top-four finishes and 15 finals appearances in that same stretch.

Hawkins, for the most part, has been an influential figure in each of those dominant Geelong teams. His place in club folklore has been punctuated by goals, but littered with selfless and team-first acts as well.

He has also reinvented forward-half ruck craft throughout the latter stages of his remarkable career. The best in the business at pulling the ball from the air in attack, it was therefore fitting Saturday's Grand Final was defined by such Hawkins brilliance.