Australian Rules superstar Tom Hawkins remembers playing a mediocre game of football a few years back after pulling a calf earlier that day.

He is not talking about pulling a calf muscle in his leg. The Geelong Cats player is talking about pulling out a cow’s offspring.

While checking on the Angus cows on his farm outside of Geelong, Hawkins had noticed one was having trouble giving birth.

After yarding her, he spent considerable time and effort trying to extricate the calf, something he’d done successfully with similar cases in the past.

This time, however, the calf was unusually large and stillborn.                

Two Geelong AFL players dressed in black and white jersey, white shots, one has hand on the head and shoulder of another.

Tom Hawkins (left) is likely to reach a career goal tally of 800 goals.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

He admits the episode put him off his game and his normally meticulous match day preparation.

The Geelong Cats had a win that day, but the big full forward hardly shone.

Two weeks’ later, Hawkins confessed what had happened to the coach, who was sympathetic and understanding.

Loading…

For Tom Hawkins, one of the most successful footballers of the modern era, farming offers perfect relief to the high-pressured environment of elite sport.

“It’s a really important part of my life,” he says.

“It gives me release from what I do, which is an intense industry — playing AFL football.”

‘I’ve just been fortunate’

Tom Hawkins, a 2-metre-tall, 100-kilogram-plus colossus, is an instantly recognisable personality in the nation’s most popular sport.

He has savoured the adulation of victory, starred in three Geelong premierships, slotting goals in front of deafening crowds of 100,000 fans and won some of the sport’s highest honours.

For all that, the softly-spoken Hawkins has a genuine humility.

“I’ve just been fortunate to have experienced Grand Final day and be on the winning side,” Hawkins says. 

Though his league career began at 18 and he knows no other real job, farming and agriculture are increasingly occupying his thoughts.

On the eve of his 18th season — he turns 36 mid-season — he’s all too aware that a professional sporting career can end abruptly with an injury or a form slump.

Yes, Hawkins says, it could be his last season, though his passion for the game remains undimmed.

And ultimately it might be the football club who decides his time is up.

The three F’s in Hawkins’ life

“There’s a few things in life that are important to me,” he says.

“And I refer to the three ‘F’s’ in my life, which are family, farming and football, and I think I’ve got them right in that order.”

Woman holds child in lap, sits next to smiling man, two children wearing black and white jerseys. Poster behind saying the gary.

Tom and Emma Hawkins with their children, from left to right, Belle, Henry and Mimi.(Supplied)

His wife Emma Hawkins says their Geelong location affords them a regional life by the coast, while Hawkins plays football professionally. 

“At the time, no one from the Cats was living on land, so Tom was really the first one to see that opportunity,” Ms Hawkins says.

Other Geelong players have since followed the Hawkins’ lead.

Loading Instagram content

Football, observes Hawkins, is a lot like farming. He says, you need a strategy, the ability to be adaptable, a willingness to work hard and be prepared to learn.

Emma Hawkins agrees.

“In terms of work ethic, and drive, dedication, resilience, in terms of the skills Tom’s learnt with football, working under pressure, being agile,” she says. 

“On any given day, something can happen out on the farm, where you’ve run out of water or a cow’s out or Tom’s got to deliver a calf before a game.”

Following the match day calving emergency, Hawkins changed his farming operation.

“I used to calve in the spring but I changed that because it suited my footy season a little bit better,” he says. 

“If I had to pull calves I wanted to have to pull calves at the start of the season, not the end of the season when we were getting down to the business end.”

And it’s the agribusiness side of farming where he sees his future, along with increasing his herd of Angus cattle, a path made easier by his father Jack.

Farming family a role model 

“Jumping Jack” Hawkins was a star for Geelong in the Victorian Football League in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Nowadays, Jack is a successful livestock and mixed cereal farmer at Finley in the New South Wales Riverina.

That’s the place where Hawkins and his three siblings grew up —  a community with whom he retains very close ties.

Two men stand outside in farming paddock, one wears a cap and another a hat.

Geelong greats Tom Hawkins and his father Jack share a love of football and farming.(ABC Landline: Tim Lee)

He remains grateful for the opportunities it afforded him.

“Anytime I can, I try and support the [Finley] football club because they were wonderful for me when I was growing up,” Hawkins says.

Two men in a beige shirt, blue shirt, one wears a cap and the other a hat.

The father and son spend hours together on their farms.(ABC Landline: Tim Lee)

Hawkins, affectionately called “Tomahawk”, is on track to reach a career goal tally of 800 this season, further enshrining him as one of the game’s greatest.

Whatever new goals lie ahead, having learnt to balance professional football and farming has undoubtedly equipped him for success.

Watch ABC TV’s Landline at 12:30pm on Sunday or on ABC iview.

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Friday.

dan