The way Jonathan Brown remembers it, when the Brisbane Lions were going for their historic AFL three-peat back in 2003, coach Leigh Matthews only mentioned it twice all year.
Once on the first day of pre-season training and again at three quarter-time of the preliminary final against Sydney, when the Lions were only three points ahead.
It’s history now that Brisbane powered away in the last quarter against the Swans, with Brown among their best players.
The Lions went on to trounce Collingwood in the 2003 grand final by 50 points, making them just the fourth club in VFL/AFL history to win three or more flags in a row.
For all that Hawthorn have achieved since breaking their premiership duck in 1961, going back-to-back-to-back remains very much on the “to do” list for the most successful club of the post-World War II era.
Speaking on Fox Footy on Monday, coach Alastair Clarkson echoed Matthews’ sentiments, noting he rarely raised the prospect of a three-peat with his players, preferring to focus on the job at hand.
It certainly seemed a long shot after the Hawks dropped four of their opening eight games this year – including shock reverses to Essendon and Greater Western Sydney.
That quartet of defeats could still end up costing Hawthorn a top-two spot and a potential rails run into the grand final.
But such has been their dominance since late May – including a 72-point trouncing of the Dockers and the 89-point demolition job on the Swans in the past two weeks – that they are now red-hot favourites to win the flag.
It seems counter-intuitive, but Hawthorn have seemingly become an even better side since their best player, Lance Franklin, left to join arch-rivals Sydney.
Looking back, it is clear that Clarkson was preparing for life after Buddy in the premiership year of 2013, as shown when Franklin spent much of the grand final victory over Fremantle playing on the wing as the goalkicking load was spread around.
The multi-pronged nature of the Hawthorn attack has continued to evolve in the following two seasons, to the point where they have five players who have kicked 19 or goals already this year – headed by Luke Breust with 36.
The best attack in the AFL in 2015 is complemented by a defence which ranks third for points conceded, behind only miserly Fremantle and West Coast.
And to make matters even tougher for the other contenders for the flag, Hawthorn’s midfield is arguably their most dominant suit.
Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis, Isaac Smith and Bradley Hill are all having big seasons, although it is worth noting that the first three will all be 31 or older by season’s end and Lewis turns 30 in April next year.
The decline this year of the great Geelong side which won three flags from 2007-11 and were also the victims of a monumental upset by the Hawks in the 2008 decider, shows that nothing lasts forever.
But right now, the Hawks could hardly be better placed to win three on the trot – whether Clarkson wants to talk publicly much about it or not.
Brisbane Lions 2001-03
Hawthorn have only twice gone back-to-back – in 1988-89 and 2013-14.