Despite a minor health scare, it has been a low-key AFL grand final build-up for Geelong star Tom Hawkins.
The Coleman medallist laughed off the focus on his self-isolation early in the week, forced by a sore throat and precautionary Covid-19 test, which came back negative, and has enjoyed the quiet preparation ahead of the historic Gabba season decider.
About 150 Cats fans watched the players’ main training session at Southport Sharks on Wednesday night, as opposed to the thousands that would have turned out at Kardinia Park under normal circumstances.
It is a far cry from the intense spotlight Hawkins felt as a young forward leading into the 2009 and 2011 grand finals.
“I’ve been a part of grand final week before back home in Victoria and it’s just completely different,” Hawkins said. “We got to enjoy a few supporters that live up here in Queensland that were at training.
“It’s totally different, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll enjoy captain’s run [on Friday], which is my favourite part of the week, and then look forward to the game. It’s been an enjoyable week knowing that our season’s coming to an end and we get that little bit of freedom at the end of the week.”
Hawkins predicted it will not quite feel like grand final week until he arrives at the Gabba to take on Richmond on Saturday night.
“Once you’re in the game you know that it’s pretty high stakes with the way that the games are played,” Hawkins said. “They’re different, they’re quicker and more contested.
“In some ways it won’t really sink in until I’m actually there and you start to see the footies and the logos on the ground and a bit more fanfare. I’m looking forward to that but it really just has felt like another week.”
One obscure part of the build-up for Hawkins has been living in close quarters with Richmond opponents on the Gold Coast.
Both clubs have small groups of players based with their families at Royal Pines, while the majority of their travelling parties are stationed at separate bases a few kilometres down the road.
“It’s been quite funny,” Hawkins said. “I played a little bit of junior footy with Jack Riewoldt and we got drafted at the same time, the same as Bachar Houli, so it’s been nice in some respects to reconnect with them, but it is strange.
“My daughter was playing with Bachar’s kids this morning, so it is quite different, but that’s the year it’s been.”