The Hawks second ever Premiership defense was almost as disastrous as the first, but not so much for the poor ladder position, rather the injury to star full-forward Peter Hudson. The man who had equaled the all-time goalkicking record the previous season, would receive a knee injury in the opening round.
There were some very significant debuts in 1972, none more so than that of Michael Tuck. A tall but slightly build lad, ‘Friar’ Tuck would go on to play a league-record 426 games, kick 320 goals, play in 39 finals and 11 grand finals, for 7 premierships including 4 as captain. John ‘Bomber’ Hendrie (grandson of Gil Hendrie, a member of the very first Hawthorn side to take the field in 1925) would accrue 197 games and 254 goals from a forward flank and would play in two premiership sides. Allan Goad (138 games, 129 goals) and Leigh Matthews’ brother, Kelvin (97 games, 99 goals) would both play in the next Hawk premiership.
In round 1 at Glenferrie against Melbourne, the Hawks unfurled the 1971 pennant before Hudson ran amok, booting 8 goals in less than a half of football. His second of those 8 was his 600th career goal (from 102 matches, still the fastest ever to 600). Just before the half-time siren he marked within range of his ninth goal and was grabbed by his opponent as he fell, twisting his knee. A subdued Hawk crowd saw their team close the game out by 29 points.
It would be some eight weeks before Hudson and the Hawks would know the full extent of his fate, and the club tried several players at full forward, including Peter Knights, Kevin Heath and even Michael Tuck. In the end they would settle on 2nd year player Michael Moncrieff. Hudson would eventually learn that he was to be out of football for at least a year – but apart from the occasional cameo appearance it ended up being closer to five.
In round 2 at Arden Street the Hawks flogged North Melbourne by 62 points, and followed up with a 42-point win over Geelong to go to the top of the table, if only for a week. A loss to Fitzroy by 19 points (the first to the Lions since 1963) was followed by a 28-point win over Footscray, a 5-point win over Collingwood at Victoria Park (after scores were level at 3 quarter-time) and an 18-point win over South which put the Hawks back on top.
In round 8 against Richmond Tuck made his debut, kicking goals with his first 3 kicks. Regardless, the Hawks lost by 7 points, despite kicking two more goals than the Tigers, 13.6 to 11.25. Hawthorn then took on 2nd placed Essendon, and lost an epic game by just 2 points. This week the Hawks would rue their inaccuracy, kicking 14.21 to the Bombers 15.17. Leigh Matthews was the chief culprit, kicking 3.8. The game would have severe repercussions come the end of the year.
Inaccuracy plagued the club again the following week in round 10 against Carlton, but this time it didn’t cost the Hawks the match as they overcame the Blues by 3 points, 11.22 88 to 13.7 85. The Hawks lead by 21 points at three quarter-time, but kicked just 7 behinds in the last quarter to Carlton’s 4.1 to win a game they would have been unlucky to lose. But luck played no part the next week when St Kilda thumped the Hawks to the tune of 54 points at Moorabbin. More heartbreak followed the next week against Melbourne when the Hawks lost by 1 point to Melbourne at the MCG – the Demons kicking 3 straight goals in the last quarter to Hawthorn’s 0.5.
Four solid wins against lower ranked sides followed, pushing the Hawks back up to 4th on the ladder. The third of those wins, by 30 points against Geelong at Glenferrie Oval in round 15, was the club’s 300th win (from 882 starts). The other wins were by 64 points over North, 53 points over Fitzroy and 41 points over Footscray.
In round 17 a 45-point loss to Collingwood halted the Hawks push up the ladder and after a good 59-point win over South the following week, a round 19 loss to Richmond by 11 points put a finals appearance for the reigning premiers in the balance. It was the first year of the top-five and Hawthorn, Essendon and St Kilda were battling for the last two spots.
Hawthorn took on Essendon at Waverley in round 20. With games against top-side Carlton and finals rival St Kilda to come, Hawthorn had to win to have a chance of making the five. The Hawks started brilliantly, kicking 6 goals to none in the first term, before Essendon hit back and eventually took the lead in the third quarter. However the Hawks powered home, kicking 6 of the last 9 goals to win by 19 points with young full-forward Michael Moncrieff booting 10 of the Hawks’ 15 goals to give fans some big-bag-of-goals joy in the absence of Hudson. Peter Crimmins also snagged 3 to be one of the best afield. St Kilda had a one-point win over Melbourne in the same round, which meant that Hawthorn were in fourth, St Kilda fifth and Essendon sixth.
The Hawks were belted by 68 points in round 21 by league leaders Carlton at Princes Park. Blue Greg Kennedy kicked 12. The loss dropped Hawthorn to fifth, stuck with the Saints and Bombers on 13 wins each. In the final round, Essendon came from behind to beat Collingwood by just 5 points, and the Saints were too good for Hawthorn, winning by 19 points. Hawthorn finished 6th, a game behind Essendon but with a better percentage. The Hawks had lost a game by 1 point and another by 2 points (against Essendon after woeful kicking cost them the game).
The disappointment was offset slightly by both the Reserves and the Under 19s winning premierships. The Reserves had been coached by 1950s star Roy Simmonds and captained by premiership player Ken Beck, who then retired after an 11-year career at Hawthorn. The Under 19s were coached by future club president Brian Coleman. The strong showing in those leagues helped the club to 3rd in Dr McClelland Trophy.
Leigh Matthews won his second best and fairest, Bomber Hendrie the best first-year player. Peter Knights, after a season up forward, won the club goalkicking with 46. Matthews and Knights earned ‘Big V’ representation, and Matthews came 5th in the Brownlow with 16 votes.
As well as Ken Beck, the last-quarter premiership hero from the year before, Bob Keddie, also retired. As did other premiership players Ray Wilson, Michael Porter and Robert Day. However in a similar vein to the lead up to the successful 1971 campaign, the club – whilst missing the finals – was steadily accumulating players that would win Hawthorn its next premiership (and the ones after that).
1972 - The Facts
Finished: 6 of 12
Highest score: 23.10.148 v South Melbourne, Round 18 at Lake Oval
Lowest score: 9.10.64 v Fitzroy, Round 4 at the Junction Oval
Greatest Winning Margin: 64 points, 21.14.140 to North Melbourne 10.16.76, Round 13 at Glenferrie Oval
Greatest Losing Margin: 68 points, 11.22.88 to Carlton 24.12.156, Round 21 at Princes Park
Longest Winning Streak: 4, Rounds 13 to 16
Longest Losing Streak: 2, Rounds 8 & 9, 11 & 12, 21 & 22.
Coach: John Kennedy Snr
Captain: David Parkin
Club Champion: Leigh Matthews
Most Brownlow votes: Leigh Matthews, 16
Leading goalkicker: Peter Knights, 46
President: Phil Ryan
Secretary/CEO: Ivan Moore
John ‘Bomber’ Hendrie