AFL: The Grand Final

Hawthorn vs Fremantle (Saturday, September 28)For the final column for the 2013 season, let’s relive the day that Hawthorn won their 11th premiership in 52 years, and cemented themselves as the powerhouse of the AFL. It was also the day we were reminded that, in AFL, on-field glory always trumps off-field scandal. In the words of victorious coach Alastair Clarkson “our code is thriving”.1st Quarter: Hawthorn make a promising start, and while Fremantle get their hands on the ball they look nervous when shooting for goal. The Hawks start beating Freo at their own game, denying Freo the ball and locking it in their forward half with great pressure. With the match on their terms, Hawthorn has all the momentum by the first break, and Fremantle slumps to its fourth consecutive match against the hawks without goaling in the first term.Hawthorn 2.3 (15), Fremantle 0.3 (3)2nd Quarter: Freo get the ball in their forward 50 early, but Hawthorn’s attack on the ball is starting to overwhelm them. While Freo rally, to their credit, and get the contested ball back to 50/50, Hawthorn have all the answers on the scoreboard. And Fremantle only exacerbate their problems by making poor decisions and missing set shots in front of goal. Hawthorn 5.5 (35), Fremantle 1.6 (12)Even the entertainment seemed to be against Freo at half-time, as Hunters and Collectors sang “Holy Grail” with the line “We were full of beans/But we were dying like flies/And those big black birds/They were circling the skies”—Hawks perhaps?3rd Quarter: Fremantle fight back, dominating the clearances and with captain Pavlich taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Fremantle get to within three points twice, but in the later stages Hawthorn go goal for goal and hold on to a 10-point lead at the final change.Hawthorn 8.8 (56), Fremantle 6.10 (46)4th Quarter: Hawthorn all but seal the game with the first three goals, but Fremantle play with a nothing-to-lose mentality and fight on. In the end, it’s failing to take their opportunities that brings them undone: two goals from six shots in a quarter doesn’t win you premierships. And so, the best team all year wins the Premiership.Hawthorn 11.11.77 def Fremantle 8.14.62 Big moments1st quarter, 17th minute: Hawthorn’s Franklin marked a wayward kick by Hill on the forward 50 line. His shot 55 metres from goal was a shocker, but the umpire deemed the man on the mark had stepped over. With the resultant 50-metre penalty, Buddy banged home Hawthorn’s second and put them a handy 11 points ahead.2nd quarter, 9th minute: Ballantyne from Freo marks the ball 45 metres out on an angle, and has Walters with a paddock of space in the square. With 100,000 people roaring and pointing at Walters, he decides against going to him, and ends up not scoring with his shot on goal.2nd quarter, 15th minute: In a 30-second passage of touches without possessions, Hawthorn wins a free kick for bringing down Freo’s Barlow, a definitive victory in the pressure football Fremantle are so good at.3rd quarter, 7th minute: Pearce thumps a ball inside 50, which takes a chaotic bounce away from the Hawk defender looking to trap it. Clarke runs on to it and handballs it to captain Pavlich, who slams home his second goal from the square to start the Dockers comeback.4th quarter, 9th minute: Breust steals a Sandilands tap in the forward line and snaps home a beauty to give Hawthorn a game-high lead of 24 points.4th quarter, 10th minute: Against three Freo players, Puopolo prevents a behind being rushed and forces a stalemate in the forward line. And the Hawks supporters ROAR.4th quarter, 21st minute: Ballantyne grabs the ball on the ricochet and shoots from 20 out on an angle, and misses again. By now it’s over.4th quarter, 28th minute: With 90 seconds left, Fremantle find some space and Crowley marks, running back with the flight. He plays on and shoots for goal but takes too long and is tackled as he kicks. The shot misses, and it sums up Fremantle’s day.Norm Smith Medallist: Brian Lake, Hawthorn Full Back“Wow-wee”, said Lake as he accepted the medal. Wow-wee indeed. Drafted from the Bulldogs at the end of last year — filling the marking hole in the Hawks’ defence perfectly — and in his first Grand Final, it’s quite the fairy tale for one of the game’s genuine characters of the past 10 years. But with 22 touches, 10 marks and shutting down Fremantle’s forward 50, he was well-deserving of the award for best player on ground.Honourable mention to Jack Gunston, who kicked three first-half goals and four overall to get Hawthorn in front early. The Winner1st – Hawthorn Hawks Hawthorn were easily the best team of 2013 and they deserved to win the Premiership. It’s that simple. They only lost three matches in the Home and Away season — the last two instalments of the Kennett Curse against Geelong and an aberration against Richmond in Round 19 — and emphatically proved their dominance by beating Sydney (the team they lost to in the Granny last year) in week one of the finals. They ended the Kennett Curse with a thrilling five-point win over Geelong last week.Hawthorn’s wealth of talent ensured their success: down back, you’ve got Norm Smith medallist Lake taking marks, Gibson leaping and spoiling every ball that gets near him, and the General-like captain Hodge setting up attacking plays along with the lethal left-footers Birchall and Guerra.In the midfield, Mitchell stands out, racking up plenty of possessions while Smith and Burgoyne run opponents off their feet.Then of course there’s the forward line, the most potent in the league, boasting Coleman medallist Roughead (74 goals), the prodigious Franklin (61), Hale (21), Breust (40), Gunston (46) and Rioli for good measure. No surprise then that they ranked number one for points scored per game this season.In essence, Hawthorn are the complete team of the AFL, and because of it their five-year plan to win two premierships is now also complete. Well done Hawks, you deserve it. The Loser2nd – Fremantle Dockers2013 will go down in Fremantle’s history as the year they did away with their image on the east coast as a weak, ineffective team, and became a serious premiership contender for the first time since entering the league in 1995.Having replaced Mark Harvey in a coup a year before, former St. Kilda Ross Lyon reinvented Fremantle as defensive masterminds this year, ensuring they conceded the least Inside 50 and points per game of any side. They beat West Coast twice, drew with Sydney, and had the league quaking in their studded boots after suffocating Geelong and Sydney with crippling defensive presses in the finals. Unfortunately they couldn’t replicate this in the big one, but the tables have turned and now other clubs will be learning from Freo how to play the game, instead of the other way round. This they can be proud of.And let’s all take a moment to feel sorry for Lyon. You might dislike his tactics or just him as a person, but you have to admit that four Grand Finals without a win is a tough hand to be Alexander Darling

September 30th 2013
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