Having cut his teeth in the white-hot intensity of SA Showdowns, milestone man Patrick Dangerfield took some time to appreciate the depth of feeling that exists between Geelong and Hawthorn.
Now in his fifth year in the blue and white hoops, the 2016 Brownlow medallist fully appreciates the significance of one of the AFL’s great modern-day rivalries.
Ever since the Hawks upset the rampaging Cats in the 2008 grand final, matches between the two clubs have taken on an extra edge.
That will be the case again on Friday night, even if the venue and the (lack of) crowd will be very different than usual.
Hawthorn will be making the trip to GMHBA Stadium for the first time since 2006.
“They’ve got a great record down there and we haven’t played there for such a long period of time,” Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said on Thursday.
“In that time, with new grandstands and everything being built and developed by the Geelong club, even the dimensions of the ground have changed a little bit since we last played there.
“So we go down there with our eyes wide open – we know how strong a challenge it’s going to be.
“We need to play somewhere near our very, very best.”
If Hawthorn are to spring an upset, finding a way to limit the output of Dangerfield will be crucial.
Having kicked off his AFL career with 154 matches for Adelaide, the lifelong Cats fan reaches the 250-game milestone against the club’s biggest rivals.
“Playing for a different club you just don’t understand that history and rivalry as much as when you are playing those games and you feel that emotion and atmosphere from the crowd, which we obviously won’t get tomorrow night,” the 30-year-old Dangerfield told reporters on Thursday.
“But I certainly understand it now.
“It’s a great rivalry and I think that’s one of the really healthy parts of our competition, that there so many really good rivalries within the game.
“We add to that as a club and so does Hawthorn.
“We want to make sure it’s really combative and we both put on a good show tomorrow night.”
The Cats are in much better shape than for round one way back in March, when they lost by 32 points to GWS with prime movers Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan both underdone after interrupted pre-season campaigns.
The Hawks beat the Brisbane Lions by 28 points in their season opener but will be without vice-captain Jaeger O’Meara (facial fracture) on Friday night.