Sport AFL Campbell Brown: you’d be a fool to write off Hawthorn

Campbell Brown: you’d be a fool to write off Hawthorn

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People in football get too caught up with age.

It’s almost as if as soon as you turn 30, they expect you to fall in a hole and be far less effective as you used to be.

I loved the response of Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge when asked by journalists about the age of the Hawks’ list and the fact they thought he was going into the twilight of his career.

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“Who says I am? Birth certificates are irrelevant,” he said.

“As long as you are having an impact on the field and around the club, that’s all that matters.”

My belief is that Hawthorn’s 30-plus players have still got plenty of great football left in them.

Josh Gibson has enjoyed a good pre-season. Photo: Getty
Josh Gibson has enjoyed a good pre-season. Photo: Getty

I know it’s only the NAB Challenge, but two weeks ago against North Melbourne, Sam Mitchell had 45 disposals, Josh Gibson had 31 and Hodge and Shaun Burgoyne roamed around and had their usual impact.

So, can the Hawks do what many people deemed impossible – and do a ‘four-peat’ in the modern era?

No team has won four in a row since Collingwood in the late 1920s, although Melbourne in the 1950s and Brisbane in the early 2000s came close.

I think the Hawks can certainly do it.

Yes, history says it’s going to be difficult. But history is not something players take too much notice of.

I’ve spent plenty of time with the Hawthorn players over the off-season.

Listening to them talk, it is obvious they have the passion to defy the historians. This is a special group of players.

They drive a ruthless standard of professionalism in their preparation and work ethic at training.

It is a group with a great blend of youth and wise heads, of attack and defence, of hardness and outside run, and they have absolute confidence and belief in their ability and game plan.

Andrew Russell is Hawthorn’s head of fitness and has been since 2005.

He is the architect of their training program, work loads and game time percentage.

He told me that he has never seen Hawthorn’s players train so well – and be so driven as they have – during this pre-season.

If you’ve been watching how they have gone about it, you would think they were hungry for their first attempt at a flag.

That is a huge statement from a man who is not prone to making them. He’s also, notoriously, a very hard task master.

Alastair Clarkson is a man on a mission. Photo: Getty
Alastair Clarkson is a man on a mission. Photo: Getty

Coach Alastair Clarkson is a man who doesn’t rest on his laurels.

He knows that the game evolves so quickly that the only way to stay successful is to stay ahead of it.

As a coach, you need to keep re-inventing yourself and tinkering with your club’s game plan.

He is such a great manager of people and motivator that he will have no trouble getting his players up as they bid to achieve history.

One of his favourite sayings has always been: ‘Lose a soldier, replace him with another one.’

This will have to be the case for Hawthorn again this year.

Brian Lake and David Hale have retired, Matthew Suckling has gone to the Western Bulldogs and Jarryd Roughead will miss the first half of the season with a knee problem.

More recently, Liam Shiels and Bradley Hill have both gone down with wrist injuries.

They are some big-name soldiers. But you will find that players will come in, with minimal fuss, and play their roles.

For the Hawks, there’s no better way to start their tilt at history than an Easter Monday clash against a fierce rival.

Geelong will be eager after missing the finals last year for the first time since 2006.

As a player, round one is always massive. But it’s even bigger when you play a team that you have had so much history with.

This rivalry is one of the great ones. 

It’s been extraordinary, starting from our win in the 2008 Grand Final, to the ‘Kennett Curse’, to Hawthorn’s amazing preliminary final triumph in 2013.

These sides are so even when they play each other. And I’m predicting another epic on Monday.

Campbell Brown played 205 AFL matches and was a member of Hawthorn’s premiership team in 2008. He played 159 games for the Hawks and 46 with the Gold Coast Suns.

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