As a youngster my brother and I listened to a cassette so many times that I think we wore it out. On Side A was the broadcast of The Coodabeen Champions pre Grand Final Show of 1990. The other side had a collection of highlights of Tony's Talkback from 1991. One particular call that I remember was from Digger, the seemingly ageless Collingwood supporter.
Digger was upset with Collingwood's premiership hangover but sought solace in an old saying he assured Tony Leonard that he wouldn't have heard.
"A week is a long time in football."
It's a phrase that's been around as long the game itself has been played on a weekly basis, I'm sure. No matter how poorly your team is performing, you never know what next week might bring. A form turnaround, a renewed purpose, a key player back from injury.
Gold Coast proved as much on Sunday evening. Backing up from a 102 point smacking from Greater Western Sydney, the Suns completely dismantled Hawthorn, repackaged them and sent them back to the manufacturer. Gary Ablett, in particular, played as though he had a point to prove after a week of being lambasted in the media. His 36 touches, two goals and 10 clearances was vintage Gary Junior.
Hawthorn players, staff and supporters will no doubt be thinking "a week is a long time in football" on the odd occasion this week. Fortuitously or not, this week will be a long one for them, too, with their next game not coming until Easter Monday. Sometimes, though, a week just isn't long enough.
The problems Hawthorn have at the moment certainly can't be fixed in a week, and they are problems that have been with the club for longer than you might think. Losing the first three games of 2017 is not just a disappointing start to the season for the Hawks, but a continuation of a serious trend.
As this table shows, Hawthorn have lost seven of their last nine games. Their two triumphs in that time have been a one point win over Collingwood and a defeat of North Melbourne, the only team with a worse record over that stretch.
"What about before Rd 20 last year?" you may ask. Didn't they win nine on the trot before that? While this is true, it's slightly misleading. Those nine consecutive wins came against Brisbane, Melbourne, Essendon, North, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, Sydney, Richmond and Carlton. Only one of those teams, the Swans, was a premiership threat and they beat them by less than a kick.
In fact, Hawthorn's form against the other top seven teams last year was largely unconvincing. Of the 10 matches they played, including finals, they won only four, and three of them were by five points or less. Their six losses were by an average of just under five goals.
Regarding the table above, probably most concerning for the Hawks is their average score against. Conceding 100+ points per game is a recipe for disaster. In every season since 2012 the only teams that concede those sort of numbers over 22 rounds have finished in the bottom four. Hawthorn need to arrest that habit pronto if they are any hope of getting close to the top eight this season.
At this stage, though, finals don't appear to be in the picture for Hawthorn. Making the top eight after losing the first three is a very rare occurrence and if any team does it this year, the Swans look more likely than the Hawks. With Geelong and West Coast in the next two weeks, followed by teams on the rise, Melbourne and St. Kilda, things could get worse before they get better.
At some stage Clarkson and co. will need to assess what they want out of this season and from a distance one would have to say "play the kids." Despite offloading a couple of veterans in Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis over the trade period, Hawthorn still fielded the oldest team in the competition last weekend. The Hawks are the only team to have an average age of over 27 years in all of the first three rounds of this season. They had four players over 30 and nine players over 28 against Gold Coast. This is not the team that will bring success to the club in the short term and certainly not in the long term.
It's not just that they have a few older players, either. The problem is that they look slow, especially the way the game has gone in the past two years, with teams taking on the opposition with quick ball movement and use through the corridor. Hawthorn's trump card was once their precision disposal, but that only works if you're quick enough to get the ball off the opposition.
The Hawks have missed the finals just once in the last 10 seasons, so it would be hard to write them off this early and it would probably take a fool to do so. This week will be like no other in recent memory for this club, though. Leading into an Easter Monday game against Geelong, usually looked forward to as another instalment in a rivalry between two powerhouses, this year it will essentially be a top vs bottom affair. If Hawthorn can be competitive against the Cats they may salvage some semblance of respect, but if they dish up something like what they did against Gold Coast, the week following won't be long enough for them.