Geelong urged to make bold Tom Hawkins call amid losing AFL start

After rushing Tom Hawkins into the side, Geelong have been urged to play the long game with Tom Hawkins.

Tom Hawkins looks dejected after Geelong's loss to Carlton.
Tom Hawkins was rushed back into the Geelong side for the start of the AFL season after foot surgery over summer. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

After losing their first two games of the season, Geelong have been urged to consider resting Tom Hawkins until the veteran forward is fully fit. Hawkins, 34, has been considered to be underdone after an AFL pre-season disrupted by foot surgery.

The Cats have been battling a host of other injuries which have decimated their backline - limiting their ability to swing someone forward to cover for Hawkins. Tom Stewart, Jake Kolodjashnij, and Jack Henry have been absent in rounds one and two among others, leaving Geelong shorthanded in defence.

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With Hawkins being held to one goal by Carlton defender Jacob Weitering on Thursday night, Geelong needed every one of Jeremy Cameron's six goals as their fourth quarter charge fell eight points short of the Blues. The loss marked the first time since the 2015 season that Geelong has lost their opening two games, also the only season under head coach Chris Scott that they have missed the finals.

Despite the injuries, several former AFL players believe the Cats would be well served giving Hawkins time to get fully fit after he was rushed into the side for round one. Leigh Montagna said it was a risk worth taking for the Cats, particularly if it gave some insurance against Hawkins injuring himself later in the year.

“I’d try and do it now, if that’s what they think is best. I’d take him out and give him a three-week pre-season block, get him hardened and fitter and feeling fresh,” he said. “Then when comes back in, he is back to the Tom Hawkins we know, and hope they’re good enough to get by and win some games in the next three weeks.”

Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall said Hawkins appeared to be a 'far cry' from his best, and could see the value in holding the hulking forward out. But he believed the key injuries in Geelong's backline left them no other option but to stick with the veteran goalkicker.

“One of the problems is, they haven’t been able to manufacture a forward line without him (Hawkins) because of the injuries at the other end,” he said. "They’ve got good sized players that are all injured – three or four of them – that normally play down back.”

Geelong under fire after second straight AFL loss

The Cats memorably rested Patrick Dangerfield mid-way through the 2022 season for several weeks, with the now club captain having a demonstrable impact on the end of their home and away season and finals campaign. Any absence for Dangerfield last year was covered by Geelong's midfield depth however, a luxury the Cats won't have for Hawkins.

Dangerfield himself has come under scrutiny after the round two loss, with premiership coach Mick Malthouse declaring he needed to lift after a somewhat uninspiring start to the season. The 32-year-old has 22 possessions in both of Geelong's outings this season, with Malthouse fearing the former Brownlow Medallist may have lost a step.

Geelong enjoyed a strong off-season from a recruiting standpoint, with many expecting the Cats to continue to compete at the pointy end of the competition. While there's a long season for them to make up ground, some have found them less than convincing after losses to Collingwood and Carlton in the first two weeks of the season.

Geelong have been described as 'vulnerable' after dropping their first two games of the 2023 AFL season. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Geelong have been described as 'vulnerable' after dropping their first two games of the 2023 AFL season. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Malthouse was one of those casting a sceptical eye over the Cats following Thursday night's loss, telling ABC Grandstand that Dangerfield had endured two 'shockers' to open the season.

“He’s had two shockers. Last week he didn’t play (well), this week he’s really struggled,” Malthouse said. “I don‘t know if it’s the expectations or leadership. He just doesn’t look like the same dynamic player.”

While it was a surprising start for many, including Geelong coach Chris Scott, he was unwilling to hit the panic button after just two weeks. Not since 2009 has the reigning premier lost their first two games of the season, with Hawthorn the last club to do so.

Scott said the Cats retained a 'quiet confidence' and that he was unsurprised by some of the 'disjointed' footy he'd seen from his side so far. The Cats enjoyed a fruitful off-season from a recruiting standpoint, with Scott giving his side the benefit of the doubt as they get to grips with new personnel.

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