GEELONG star Tom Hawkins has declared the Cats’ era of dominance far from over as they prepare for a crunch match against fellow flag contender Fremantle this weekend.
The two-time premiership forward believes Geelong is well placed to make another premiership assault and has the foundations in place to ensure it remains a finals aspirant for years to come.
Speaking while on a visit to Warrnambool yesterday, Hawkins said the Cats were building but were well aware of the evenness of the AFL competition this season.
“We can win the flag,” he said.
“Our best footy is good enough, we believe that, and we have just got to put a few things in place and improve a few areas.
“On the weekend I think we took some good steps forward (against North Melbourne).
“This weekend is another good test but we think we’re a chance.
“We have a good young list and that complements the older guys.
“We’d like to think not only the coaches teach young kids but the senior players teach as well.”
Third-placed Geelong hosts fourth-placed Fremantle at Kardinia Park in a crucial battle on Saturday night.
The Dockers have won four of the past five matches against the Cats, including last season’s shock qualifying final win at the Cattery and their 2012 elimination final at the MCG.
Hawkins, who has kicked 51 goals from 18 games this season, said the AFL finals make-up would go down to the wire.
“I think once the final eight has been made up I think any team realistically is a chance,” he said of the 2014 premiership race.
“I know in previous years a lot of external people have said you have to make top four to win it, but we have seen sides from the lower half of the ladder beat top sides and vice versa.
“I think it is a really interesting season that could go any way.
“Hawks and Sydney have been playing exceptional football and they deserve to be flag favourites but I wouldn’t be writing off a lot of sides.
“West Coast and Richmond can mathematically make the finals and on their day they can beat anyone.
“It will be a really interesting next couple of weeks and this week against Freo for us is probably one of our biggest games for the next five weeks.”
Hawkins, 26, is managing a back complaint which hindered his movement in 2013.
The 141-game veteran said he was pleased it hadn’t impacted him this season.
“I am obviously delighted that I haven’t had any issues with my back,” Hawkins said.
“No doubt over my career it’ll flare up again at some stage but I feel like I am doing a lot of things right at the moment.
“I think the worst is behind me. I have always had a bit of a back issue, it just reared its head a lot more than it had previously last year.”
Hawkins praised south-west exports — North Warrnambool Eagles’ Billie Smedts and Kolora-Noorat’s Nick Bourke.
Smedts, 22, has played four games this year after overcoming a leg injury that interrupted his start to the season.
“We’ve been happy with how he’s going (in the VFL). I think he’s just going to need his opportunity and once he grabs it, he’ll be fine,” he said.
“He’s a really talented kid, as everyone from Warrnambool knows and we know down in Geelong.”
Bourke, 19, is yet to debut after the Cats rookie-listed him last November but he’s played 12 of 15 matches in the second-tier competition.
Hawkins said Bourke was a project player who had settled in well to the AFL environment.
“He has a lot of development to do but he shows a lot of talent,” he said.
“He is a really nice left-foot kick, makes a lot of good decisions.
“Yes he can play footy but he’s a really nice kid and he shares the values of the footy club and that’s what we love about him.”