Tom Hawkins finds another level
Hawkins cites a few factors in his Indian summer. Accuracy is one. Over that 14-goal fortnight, he’d kicked 7.0 and 7.1. “I had a game four or five weeks ago when I kicked 2.5.”
Unsurprisingly, he’s coursing with confidence. “I’m confident at the moment, which I think I’ve mentioned all along when I’m playing confidently and confident in my body and what I’m doing, I’ve been able to play well and consistently.”
Hawkins says he also shed a few kilos over the past two to two-and-a-half years and “became a little lighter on my feet.” His agility – perennially undersold – was evident in two Eddie Betts-calibre snaps v the hapless Demons in that epic final quarter, when Hawkins contributed 4.0 of 8.0.
“I’m trying to stay on the move,” he said. Delivery from teammates was important, too. “The way that the ball’s coming in has been outstanding.”
Hawkins said that, at 30, “the challenges are greater to prepare yourself”. Typically, he spends the first few days of his week in recovery. “The next three, four or five (days) I use to prepare for the opponent and individual opponents that I’m up against.”
This week, he’s prepared for both Alex Rance and his offsider David Astbury, in a monstrous Friday night encounter against the Tigers. “I kind of expect to have a bit of Alex and a bit of Dave Astbury … I have played on both players before, so I feel like I have an understanding of how they want to play. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to go out and play well and dominate.”
While Hawkins praised Rance – “one of the decade’s best full-backs” – he said he would focus on his own game and what worked for him, rather than on curbing the Richmond great (as some teams do). “I’ll play how I need to within our system and then I’ll worry about how I play when I’m at my best.” This approach, he said, was not discounting the ability of any defender.
Hawkins said he was “a little” emotional in the rooms after the Melbourne game, which also was the day he turned 30. “It’s a bit hard to explain – more sort of family reasons than anything else,” said Hawkins, who lost his mother Jennifer to cancer in 2015. Last year, he gained a daughter, Arabella.
“Obviously, losing mum was heartbreaking. I suppose at certain stages of your life anyone that loses someone close to them, that they love, there’s certain stages when you wish they were there to celebrate certain stages, or to be there when things aren’t going so well.
“So it was probably that more than anything else, the fact that it was my 30th birthday.”
If Hawkins has been “in the zone”, he doesn’t like the concept of plying his trade in one. As the AFL contemplates rule changes or “adjustments”, Hawkins urges restraint. “I would hate to see a couple of big rules implemented that would change the way the game is,” he said.
Specifically, Hawkins “wouldn’t want to be restricted with where I could run on the ground”. He did not wish to be “pigeonholed” as forward 50m player only.
In theory, “zones” – which the AFL is retreating from – were supposed to benefit key forwards like Hawkins. Just as turning 30 is supposed to bring their decline.