Blessed with all the essential skills of football, Doug Hawkins, known almost universally as 'the Hawk', would arguably be Ted Whitten senior's only serious rival as the greatest footballer ever to don the famous tricolor jumper of the Footscray Football Club.
Idolized by the fans at the Western Oval for seventeen seasons (1978-94), during which time he amassed a club record 329 games, Hawkins' patch of ground, which he patrolled with the same air of ownership as a police officer on the beat, was unofficially known as 'the Doug Hawkins wing'. Dougie is our First Guest on The Marngrook Footy Show Radio Edition. Grant and Milnie yarn to the legend about the game.
Some, like former Collingwood champion Peter McKenna, went so far as to adjudge Hawkins the most naturally gifted footballer of his era¹, and there can be absolutely no doubt that he was blessed with abundant talent. Quick, strong, agile, brilliant overhead, an excellent kick, and a superb exponent of handball, Hawkins had a knack of making the spectacular look like second nature. Moreover, despite the fact that he had his share of run-ins with the Tribunal, he was essentially a ball player, thereby earning the respect of both opponents and, in some cases, even opposition supporters. Melbourne great Robbie Flower spoke for many players of his era when he observed that Doug Hawkins was always a tough customer to play against. His exceptional skills whether it be on the ground or in the air were something even his opponents were willing to stand back and applaud.
At times I would think, 'How did he do that?' when gaining possession in a freakish manner. However, his most outstanding asset was his unselfishness and use of clever handball often forsaking his own accolades for the sake of the team. His tackling was another feature of his game that emphasized his team orientated manner.
During the course of his long career, Hawkins received several offers, most notably from Essendon and Adelaide, to leave his beloved Western Oval. Given Footscray's consistent lack of success such offers must surely have been extremely tempting, but it is typical of the character of the man that when he did finally jump ship in 1995 it was not to pursue personal glory but to play out his career endeavoring to help Fitzroy, a club which was in an even more parlous state than the Bulldogs, achieve a measure of self respect.
If he can perhaps be said to have failed in that ambition, it was nevertheless a noble failure. However, to those who watched 'the Hawk' in action during the peak of his playing career - which was more or less all of the 17 years he spent with Footscray - 'failure' was seldom, if ever, a word which applied. Author - John Devaney