Neil James Napier Hawke
27 June 1939
Place of birth
Cheltenham, SA (5014)
25 December 2000 (aged 61)
Place of death
Adelaide, SA (5000)
Height and weight
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 91 kg
State of origin
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
|West Torrens||SANFL||1962-1963, 1966||33||97||2.94||—||—||—||—||—|
|SANFL||1957, 1962-1963, 1966||38||124||3.26||—||—||—||—||—|
|Total||1957-1959, 1962-1963, 1966||80||281||3.51||—||—||—||—||—|
Had he elected to concentrate on football rather than cricket, the late Neil Hawke might well be remembered today as a champion key position forward. Immensely powerful overhead, and surprisingly quick at ground level for someone of such hefty build, he typically rounded things off with an almost unfailingly accurate drop punt.
Hawke burst onto the scene with Port Adelaide in 1957, but after just five games, which yielded 27 goals (15 of them in one match against South Adelaide), he was unceremoniously dropped following a poor performance against West Adelaide and never played for the club’s senior side again.
During Port’s end of season trip to Perth to play East Fremantle the team stayed at the Savoy Hotel which was managed by East Perth coach Jack Sheedy, who persuaded Hawke to have a chat about his football future with officials from his club. The Royals ended up signing Hawke, who in two seasons in the west provided ample evidence of just how fine a footballer he was, booting 157 goals in 42 games, and helping the side to successive Grand Final wins over East Fremantle and Subiaco. After playing mainly on the half forward line during his debut season he was moved to the goalfront the following year and his tally of 114 goals was good enough to top the WANFL list. Mind you, there were some concerns over his kicking, particularly early on during his time in the west. In June 1958, for example, Alan Ferguson, writing in ‘The Football Budget’, observed:
Neil Hawke as a centre half forward commands an aerial supremacy. However, to secure the best from Hawke (only 18) East Perth must improve his kicking. Drop punts are useless on fine days.
How times - and perceptions - change!
Hawke spent the whole of 1960 concentrating on cricket but in 1961 he returned to South Australia and resumed his football career not with the Magpies, but with West Torrens. In 1962, 1963 and in 1966 he added a final 33 league games to his portfolio, kicking 97 goals. Quite a number of his games for the Eagles were played at centre half back, a position to which he adapted well. Over the course of his career, Hawke played a total of four games of interstate football, two each for Western Australia and his home state. He spent the 1961 football season playing for Brighton in the SAAFL, winning the Hone Medal as best and fairest player in A1 section. He also helped South Australia to a win over Victoria in an amateur interstate match on the Adelaide Oval.
Author - John Devaney