Even diehard Cat admits to admiring Hawks' dynasty
BLOCKBUSTER finals featuring Hawthorn and Geelong have been stirring up emotions in Cameron Mooney for some time.
But the hatred that filled him after the Hawks shocked his Cats to win the 2008 grand final has for now at least been replaced by complete admiration for the club on the threshold of all-time greatness.
Speaking with Australian Regional Media, the former Cat in him says "I'm desperate to see Geelong get back up the top there and win another premiership”.
"But I'm also a football lover,” the now popular Fox Footy commentator added. "And watching what Hawthorn has done over the last few years has been incredible.
"Everyone is forgetting, while they are going for four (flags) in a row, they're actually going for five grand finals in a row, and that is bloody hard.
"To be at the top of the tree for five years in a row, no team in the modern game has done that.”
The teams will go head-to-head again tomorrow night at the MCG in a qualifying final - and provide yet another chapter in the AFL's fiercest modern-day rivalry that began on that fateful "last Saturday in September” in 2008.
Having claimed the minor premiership, the Cats had been overwhelming favourites to claim back-to-back flags. But they booted 4.15 during the second and third quarters and kicked themselves out the contest.
It still irks the man once known as the "Big Hairy Cat”.
"We were the best side that year, but they played a really good game of footy and we played a poor one,” he recalled.
"I had a really poor one in front of goal - it still doesn't sit well with me.
"From then on there was always that little bit of hatred towards Hawthorn.”
Geelong would go on and become champions again in 2009 and 2011, and famously win the next 11 clashes between the two sides, most of them thrillers, which was all part of some "great theatre”, Mooney said.
Hawthorn eventually turned the tables on Geelong in the 2013 finals, and enjoyed its own four-match winning streak, before the Cats drew first blood in the 2016 season-opener.
Like everyone else, Mooney, who played in two premiership with the Cats in 2007 and 2009 after an early one with North Melbourne (1999), is now wondering what their next instalment will bring.
With the Hawks having limped into the finals, he wonders if we are "just starting to see signs of them being a little bit weary”.
"I remember late in my Geelong career we had so many great players, but maybe we weren't doing the little things all the time like we were in say 2007, '08 and '09,” he said.
"In 2010 every team was coming at us every week, trying to bash us up. That's the same thing that's happened to Hawthorn, and maybe this year it's just starting to get the better of them.”
While Mooney refuses to write them off, the Hawks' inability to win the hard ball in 2016 does not augur well for the intensity of a finals series.
"When we talk finals football, we talk contested footy and clearances and all that type of thing, and they've been really bad at that this year,” he said.
The Hawks are ranked last among the eight finalists for contested disposals, and even more alarmingly are second-last across the competition for clearances.
Enter Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield, who carved up the Hawks at the stoppages in round one, while gathering 45 disposals, and hasn't stopped.
"I think everyone would be staggered if he didn't win the Brownlow, and maybe pushing towards a grand final and premiership in your first year would just be an incredible personal year for him,” Mooney said.
Until then, Mooney the fan and commentator will sit back and enjoy the show.
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