Hawthorn Beat the Odds to Win Back to Back Premierships

Hawthorn pride produces another premiership

HAWTHORN 5.5 11.9 16.11 21.11 (137)
SYDNEY 2.3 5.3 8.5 11.8 (74)

Sydney Swans
 were favourites amongst the bookies and punters to take the 2014 AFL Grand Final, but someone forgot to tell Hawthorn.

Hawthorn dominated the final match of the 2014 season to make it back to back premierships for the second time in their history.

The Age reports all of the action at the MCG yesterday:-

Hawthorn is a club with enormous pride. Now it’s also a club with two lots of back-to-back flags among its dozen premierships. And those two points are inextricably woven. Last year’s first leg of the double saw the Hawks start favourites against Fremantle, a side which all week in the lead-up was feted for its relentless defensive pressure. Yet in the biggest game of the year, it was the Hawks who led the way in all the hard indicators.

On Saturday, the double was achieved with Hawthorn this time not even with the benefit of favouritism, and again its opponent having been lauded all over the football world for its hardness at the contest and the ball.
In both cases, the Hawks didn’t betray even a hint of “what about us?” as their opponent was fawned over. Again against the Swans, as against the Dockers last year, they simply gritted their teeth, came out with the most competitive front, and let their tackling, their harassing and their pressure do the talking.
Yes, the Hawks’ forward line was potent, Jarryd Roughead and Luke Breust finishing with eight goals between them in this 63-point pasting, Sydney’s heaviest defeat in the 100-odd games it has been coached by John Longmire.
Yes, the defence stood up to the Swans’ tall timber brilliantly and created attack after attack once it had repelled imminent danger. Yes, the midfield was superb, this a win driven by the most senior hands, skipper Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell.
But this was mainly about a team which, having coped with setback after setback in 2014 through injury to just about all its key players, and even the serious illness of its coach, wasn’t going to let a trifling matter like popular perception get in its way.
And while it might only have stolen a scoreboard edge late in the first quarter, it set the tone right from the start.
It was the Hawks applying all the pressure from the opening minutes, the most significant quarter-time statistic their 22-7 edge in the tackle count, thwarting the Swans’ ability in close, and eventually capitalising with the last four goals of the quarter.
Their 20-point lead could have even been more, Jack Gunston going to the first change with 1.3 on the board, Liam Shiels and Luke Hodge also missing gettable goals. But that was nit-picking given the intensity with which they and every Hawk had attacked their early task.
Briefly, as Lance Franklin, imposing early, kicked the Swans’ second, you wondered whether profligacy was again going to cost Hawthorn in a grand final. But not for long.
With the Hawks by now having almost quadrupled Sydney’s not-so-grand tally of three tackles for the game, the goals came soon enough. Breust first, then Brad Hill, who capitalised on the game’s first clear “howler”, Swans key defender Heath Grundy opting to fist clear rather than mark when alone and unattended, that anxious effort landing in Hill’s lap.

Nothing said more loud and clear that the Hawks had not only hit the ground running, but had their opponents rattled. And that became a recurring theme, Hawthorn even by half-time having kicked four of its goals from Sydney kick-in errors. The turnovers in the defensive 50 at one stage read 11 to the Swans, one to the Hawks. Enough said.

Gunston made it four goals to two before young Hawk Will Langford, again helping lead the way much as in last week’s preliminary final, snapped another over his shoulder, the margin now creeping out to 20 points.

What appeared to be a more normal transmission resumed almost as soon as the siren sounded the start of the second quarter, Nick Malceski, to this point a lone hand for the Swans, beginning a transition from defence that broke Ben McGlynn out into the clear, the subdued Swan bouncing one through from outside the 50.

But this was no restoring of equilibrium. Merely the signal for Hawthorn to launch another assault, this one even more devastating than the four goals to end the first term. This time, it was five goals in under 10 minutes, the margin after the last of those blowing out to a scarcely believable 47 points.

Breust started the explosion. David Hale’s next goal was an indictment of Sydney’s defence, Mitchell finding him barely 35 metres out after he’d already marked in space inside 50. Sydney had plenty of time to cover all bases but somehow neglected to mark the obvious presence of Hale despite the presence of 14 players in red-and-white jumpers.

And the next three goals were like daggers through the Swans’ heart. Langford produced the loudest roar of the day when from the next centre bounce clearance, Lewis and Mitchell completely holding sway and winning another stoppage, he was put into the clear and let fly.

If that wasn’t demoralising enough, Hodge then pounced twice within three minutes, the first occasion marking in front in the goal square for a “gimme”, the second another Sydney blunder, Gary Rohan’s kick-in given too much air, Hodge intercepting and calmly slotting the spoils.

That’s the sort of “cover your eyes” moment that says there’s no coming back for the team on the wrong end, and for Sydney, there wasn’t.

The half-time gap of 42 points would have required a comeback of the proportions of Carlton’s famous 1970 effort against Collingwood, and even the Blues that day had a bit more bottle for the job at hand than the Swans appeared to.

Indeed, the margin stretched even further as the Hawks added another couple to start the third quarter.

Kieren Jack, one of several senior Swans who made some uncharacteristic mistakes when the game was still on the line, attempted to rally his team. So did Franklin, who battled to the end, consecutive goals to that pair bringing things back to their half-time state.

But that was returned with interest, and when Langford kicked his third, a miraculous effort from the boundary line that bounced through but never really looked like missing, mere defeat was starting to lean towards humiliation for the favourites.

And so for the Hawks it became one of those dream grand final wins, one where with victory assured, the entire final term becomes a celebratory party of sorts, Roughead and Shaun Burgoyne, another who’d driven the blistering start with a 10-possession first term, among many to cash in.

For the bulk of the football world, meanwhile, which had decided en masse that with both teams at their best, Sydney would prevail, there was some comprehending of the scale of their misjudgment to do.

We never learn, do we? Never write off Hawthorn became something of a catch-cry during the 1980s when the Hawks would ritually be dismissed with each setback, and each time find a way to get back in the ball game.

Thirty years on, little has changed. More than ever in 2014, Hawthorn just had to find a way somehow. And on grand final day, just like week after week these past six months, the Hawks did that and then some.

So footy is over for 2014 and the MCG will be hosting Cricket again soon enough. But could Hawthorn make it a trifecta in 2015?

Footy Experts Predict the 2014 Brownlow winner

Who do the Footy Experts Tip to Win the 2014 Brownlow Medal?

The Brownlow medal count will be under way very shortly and everyone has their pick for who will walk away with the medal. So we decided to see who the experts were tipping and what the current market is for the winner.

WHO will take Charlie home in 2014? SuperFooty’s experts put their reputations on the line to predict the top three in the AFL’s top individual award.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Lance Franklin (Syd)

3 Scott Pendlebury (Coll)

Selwood deserves his chance to win after coming so close in recent seasons.


1 Robbie Gray (Port)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Gary Ablett (GC)

Robbie won the AFL Coaches Association award and the coaches see the game better than anyone.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Josh Kennedy (Syd)

Selwood can’t be ignored. Great start, great finish and a few in between. In the play all the time.


1 Lance Franklin (Syd)

2 Jordan Lewis (Haw)

3 Gary Ablett (GC)

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but Buddy is a rock star at the top of his game. Changed the course of enough Sydney matches.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Lance Franklin (Syd)

Suspect Selwood may overhaul his former teammate late, perhaps in the final round. Almost won last year and get his chance this season.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Matt Priddis (WC)

Keep the handkerchief near as Selwood overtakes Ablett in the final round and then pays tribute to the Gold Coast champ on an emotional night.


1= Gary Ablett (GC)

1= Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Josh Kennedy (Syd)

Ablett does the impossible on the field, now he can do the same off it by sharing the medal with Selwood. Who better to share it with than his mate Gazza?


1 Robbie Gray (Port)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Jordan Lewis (Haw)

Port is the story of the year, Gray was its best player. Lots of touches but importantly kicked goals, which umps love.


1 Gary Ablett (GC)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Robbie Gray (Port)

Perhaps I’m a hopeless romantic, but wouldn’t it be magic to see Gaz win a third Brownlow? And make history? I reckon an even season, without a runaway favourite, gives him a chance.


1 Gary Ablett (GC)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Lance Franklin (Syd)

I think Ablett will rack up 27 or 28 votes by the time he drops out of the voting in Round 16, and then it’s just a matter of whether Selwood can catch him.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Dustin Martin (Rich)

Selwood was stiff last season not to share the spoils with Gazza. Iced his first Brownlow with a three-vote effort against Brisbane in Round 23.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2. Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Jordan Lewis (Haw)

Pipped by one vote last year, the door has opened for Selwood to claim a deserved Brownlow after Ablett’s injury. Another great season for one of the best on-field leaders in the game.


1 Josh Kennedy (Syd)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Dyson Heppell (Ess)

Consistent high-possession tallies and the Swans’ healthy win-loss record will deliver the onballer a narrow victory.


1= Joel Selwood (Geel)

1= Gary Ablett (GC)

1= Jordan Lewis (Haw)

It’s going to be tight at the top — a three-way tie. Ablett had it won before going down with a shoulder injury and his absence has allowed Selwood and Lewis to make up the shortfall.


1 Robbie Gray (Port)

2 Josh Kennedy (Syd)

3 Gary Ablett (GC)

The umpires love it when Gray boots goals. In the seven games in which he has polled Brownlow votes, he kicked at least three majors in six of them. Add the fact he led the AFL in score involvements and it stacks up as a Brownlow season — just ask the coaches.


1 Gary Ablett (GC)

2 Joel Selwood (Geel)

3 Dyson Heppell (Ess)

Gazza was an unbackable favourite when he went down in Round 16, and remember pundits were already saying he’d probably have enough votes to win. Don’t think anyone else has put in enough “three-voters” since to catch him.


1 Joel Selwood (Geel)

2 Gary Ablett (GC)

3 Jordan Lewis (Haw)

Following the recent trend of requiring at least two great years to win the medal, Selwood has served his apprenticeship and will get the one that narrowly escaped him last year.


Joel Selwood 9

Gary Ablett 5

Robbie Gray 3

Josh Kennedy 1

Lance Franklin 1

Jordan Lewis 1


$2.50 Joel Selwood

$3.50 Gary Ablett

$6 Robbie Gray

$9 Jordan Lewis

$10 Josh Kennedy (Syd)

$11 Dyson Heppell

$17 Scott Pendlebury, Matt Priddis

$21 Lance Franklin

$34 Trent Cotchin

$41 Travis Boak

$67 Dayne Beams

$81 Dustin Martin, Aaron Sandilands, Luke Parker

$101 Michael Barlow, Nick Dal Santo, Patrick Dangerfield, Brandon Ellis, Bryce Gibbs, Nathan Jones, Tom Liberatore, Ben McGlynn, Dion Prestia, Nick Riewoldt, Rory Sloane, Scott Thompson (Adel)

More at SuperFooty experts pick the 2014 Brownlow winner

So who do you think will pick up the medal?

See if the experts are right, check back here again after the result and see how many of them will have red faces.

Port Adelaide send Fremantle crashing in semi-final

Power surge past Dockers to reach prelim

Fremantle 11.17 (83)

Port Adelaide 15.15 (105)

Fremantle gave up a 31 point lead to lose to Port Adelaide in the semi-final in Perth last night.

Foxsports reported the sorry tale of the Dockers exit.

FREMANTLE’S season has ended with the bitter taste left by missed opportunities for the second year running, as the Dockers crumbled at the home that was meant to be their fortress last night.

Port Adelaide’s chief matchwinners in Robbie Gray, Ollie Wines and Chad Wingard were irresistible in this extraordinary semi-final and the match will go down as one of the most famous finals comebacks.
But having led by 31 points late in the second quarter before losing 15.15 (105) to 11.17 (83), this calamity go down as a sporting tragedy of immense proportions for the Dockers and their long-suffering supporters.
If bad kicking is bad football then Fremantle was horrible and brilliant at the same time in the first half.
Fremantle led by four goals at the major break after a first half that followed a remarkably similar script to that of last year’s preliminary final against Sydney at the same venue.
The Dockers were dominant without gaining commensurate reward on the scoreboard, spraying 6.11, including three consecutive behinds to Michael Walters in the space of a few minutes early in the second term.
But the extent Fremantle’s control was such that there were no genuine fears at half-time that the inaccuracy could cost the Dockers their season.
Enter Gray. The coaches’ player of the year sparked a stunning third-quarter rally from the Power, who trailed by 31 points 22 minutes into the second quarter.
Gray’s four-goal third term was one of the great individual quarters of finals football in recent memory, as he twice kicked clutch goals to take the lead for his side.

In a crucial sliding doors moment late in the third quarter, it was the players’ player of the year in Nat Fyfe who was responsible for a horror turnover that led to the coaches’ player of the year kicking his fourth.

With the Dockers having lost control of the midfield battle, Port Adelaide added six goals to two for the third term to turn a 24-point deficit into a two-point lead at the final change.

Fremantle defender Zac Dawson was reported for striking Gray in a clumsy spoiling attempt in the middle of the third-quarter mayhem.

Despite leading goalscorer Hayden Ballantyne watching the game at home with a broken jaw, the Dockers had a small forward of their own capable of matching tricks with Gray.

Walters kicked his team’s only two goals of the third term and put the Dockers back in front a minute into the last quarter with his third major.

Fremantle’s lead was back out to 10 points following Hayden Crozier’s second goal four minutes into the last quarter, before Wines got a crucial reply for Port with a clever snap.

It was the start of a run of three goals for the Power until Danyle Pearce gave the Dockers some hope with a goal at the 23-minute mark.

Wingard’s fourth was key and from there Port were home and seats were emptying.

The eerie post-match scene was inconceivable earlier in the game.

It might have taken Port just 18 minutes to kill off hapless Richmond last weekend, but coping with the structure and commitment of a desperate Fremantle on its home deck was another task entirely in the early going.

With Alex Silvagni a late withdrawal due to a hamstring problem, the Dockers were without three of their best four tall defenders and played with Dawson as their only recognised key defender.

Garrick Ibbotson conceded 13cm to his opponent Justin Westhoff, with Ross Lyon opting to leave forwards Matt Taberner and Chris Mayne in attack as Tendai Mzungu began as the loose man in defence.

Yet the relentless Dockers held key forwards Jay Schulz and Westhoff goalless in the first half.

Ryan Crowley half Power skipper Travis Boak (who finished with a season-low 16 touches) to just four handballs and no kicks to half-time in a superb tagging performance, while Dockers livewire Stephen Hill shook off Kane Cornes with 11 second-quarter possessions to provide some much needed run and carry.

He mightn’t have the tricks or the reputation of Freo’s ‘big three’ midfielders, but pint-sized South Australian Lachie Neale (32 possessions) set the tone for the Dockers’ early control with a stunning first term that included 15 disposals and four clearances.

Wingard kicked goals in the final minute of both the first and second quarters in crucial lifelines for the visitors.

So now the prelininary finals are decided with the Swans hosting North Melbourne on Friday and Port Adelaide travelling the MCG on Saturday to face Hawthorn.

North Melbourne Beats Geelong to Reach Preliminary Final

Top Four Geelong Fall to North Melbourne in Semi-Final

Geelong 13.14 (92)

North Melbourne 14.14 (98)

In a real nail biter that went down to the wire sixth placed North Melbourne took out, top four finisher, Geelong in Friday night’s semi-final.

The ABC reported the action

A massive mark in defence from ruckman Todd Goldstein helped North Melbourne advance to its first preliminary final since 2007 after upsetting Geelong by six points their semi-final.

The Kangaroos led by 32 points at the 14-minute mark of the final term of Friday night’s clash before the Cats booted the last four goals of the match to almost force a draw.

North won 14.14 (98) to 13.14 (92) and were led in midfield by Nick Dal Santo and Sam Gibson while Drew Petrie had a big game up forward with four goals.

Key forward Tom Hawkins was almost the match-winner for the Cats with five goals, including three in the final term, while Josh Walker booted three majors.

Josh Caddy, Mitch Duncan and Joel Selwood were busy for the Cats in midfield in a tense finish in front of 65,963 fans at the MCG.

Lindsay Thomas kicked all three of his goals for North in the first term as the Kangaroos booted seven majors.

A sloppy kick-out from full-back by Geelong’s Andrew Mackie gifted Todd Goldstein a goal as the Kangaroos hopped to a 30-point lead at the 28-minute mark of the first quarter.

The Cats stopped North’s momentum however with three late goals including one after the siren to Tom Hawkins to reduce the margin to 12 points at the first break, 7.1 (43) to 5.1 (31).

The Kangaroos added only two goals in the second term but they still doubled their lead as the Cats were held goal-less.

North were ahead 9.6 (60) to 5.6 (36) at half-time and the Kangaroos booted three goals to Geelong’s three in the third term to hold their 24-point advantage at three-quarter time.

Jack Ziebell kicked two goals in three minutes to seemingly make a hero of himself for the Kangaroos. But Hawkins responded with three consecutive goals to make the margin 12 points.

Geelong’s September specialist Jimmy Bartel kicked a goal with two minutes and 26 seconds left and it was just a goal the difference.

The Cats were surging late before Goldstein took a huge pack mark in defence with less than 30 seconds on the clock to hold back the home side from one final attack.

Brent Harvey, returning from a three-game suspension, had 25 touches and was also a key player for North who will play the Swans at Sydney’s Olympic stadium in next Friday night’s preliminary final.

Fremantle and Port Adelaide battle it out in Perth on Saturday evening for the chance to meet Hawthorn in the other Preliminary Final.

Port Demolish Richmond in Sunday’s Elimination Final

The semi-finals have been decided with Port Adelaide‘s demolition of Richmond at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

The AFL official website described the action:-

AFTER setting the tone for the afternoon with a jaw-dropping first term, Port Adelaide annihilated Richmond by 57 points in Sunday’s elimination final at Adelaide Oval.

Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin won the toss but elected to kick into a stiff breeze; a baffling decision he would immediately regret as the Power kicked the first seven goals of the game on their way to the big 20.12 (132) to 11.9 (75) win.
Just as Port coach Ken Hinkley predicted during the week, Richmond’s nine-game winning streak counted for nothing and it struggled badly to settle into the game.
Hinkley was very impressed by his side’s ferociousness at the contest, particularly early, and claimed the opening 17 minutes of the game was the best football the club had played under his reign.
“The boys were just up and about right from the very start … it all came from our intensity, we just hunted the ball really hard,” Hinkley said.

“We knew we had been challenged in that area against the Tiges last time we played them and it was one area we needed to get right and we did.
“It was an awesome display by a group of young me who were determined to stick together and play tough footy.”
Power captain Travis Boak was inspirational from the opening bounce, collecting 10 first-term possessions and a goal on his way to 33 disposals.
Justin Westhoff was brilliant with 20 disposals and two goals, while Jake Neade oozed X-factor and bravery to boot a game-high three majors.
The usual suspects in Robbie Gray (25 disposals, one goal), Ollie Wines (23 touches, two goals) and Chad Wingard (21, two) were all also influential and Tom Jonas (22 possessions, 12 marks) offered great rebound out of defence.
Few Richmond players had any meaningful impact on the contest, but Anthony Miles (24 disposals), Cotchin (six clearances), Brett Deledio (29 disposals, one goal) and Brandon Ellis could at least fly home to Melbourne with reputations in tact.
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick criticised his playing group’s hardness early, insisting Cotchin’s decision to kick into the wind was irrelevant.
“At the end of the day the wind has got nothing to do with putting your head over the ball and not winning hard contests,” Hardwick said.
“It’s a tale of two; you give yourself a chance to play finals but then the reality is you get measured by your finals success and we have made the last two and haven’t performed in both so we have got some work to do.”
While the home side’s scoreboard pressure was outstanding, it was set up by a superior work rate and a stirring attack on the football – as typified by Hamish Hartlett’s courageous gather to set up a goal in the second quarter.
Richmond steadied itself for a period late in the first term, but another six goals to two in favour of the Power extended the margin to 69 points by the main break.
The half was soured though when Power speedster Matt White was subbed out of the game with a suspected fractured jaw.
White was taken to hospital and although scans hadn’t yet revealed the extent of the damage, the club was hopeful he avoided a break.
A bake from Cotchin as the Tigers left the field at half-time failed to rouse his teammates as Port continued to control play through the third quarter.
With the result long settled, Port took its foot off the pedal in the final stanza but the Tigers’ late goals through Jack Riewoldt, Shane Edwards, Nathan Gordon and Ben Griffiths counted for nothing; their season and winning streak finally coming to an end.

So next weekend sees the semifinals with Port Adelaide travelling to Patersons Stadium to take on Fremantle, in the battle of the port cities and Geelong will host North Melbourne on Friday night.

North Melbourne defeats Essendon by 12 points

Comeback Roos Prevail in Epic Win Over Dons

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.3 2.4 9.5 14.9 (93)
ESSENDON 2.4 6.7 10.8 12.9 (81)

Essendon are the first side eliminated from the 2014 finals, going out after a mighty comeback from the Kangaroos

This is how the Herald Sun saw the all Melbourne contest

In one of the most dramatic and unpredictable finals of recent seasons, the Kangaroos defied the critics — who would paint them as flighty and prone to going missing — and scrapped their way to a remarkable 12-point win over Essendon.

Twice, key North Melbourne forwards sprang up from nowhere to produce inspired cameos that turned the course of the game.

Late in the frantic final quarter, Drew Petrie, largely unsighted throughout the evening, produced two brilliant snapped goals within a minute to put this remarkable elimination final out of Essendon’s reach.
With the Roos trailing by a point, Petrie was first to react when a Jack Ziebell pass cleared the pack, and after gathering ahead of Cale Hooker he snapped a 35-metre shot over his shoulder.
Then, after North won the ensuing centre clearance, Petrie accepted a Daniel Wells handball and wobbled through an off-balance goal under pressure to make the margin 11 points.
But the spark for the Roos’ win caught fire through his forward-line partner, Ben Brown, at the beginning of the second half.
Both Brown and Petrie had been relatively subdued, well beaten by Hooker and Ariel Steinberg respectively, until Brown began playing more like Jonathan than Ben and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the third quarter.
Brown kicked three goals within seven minutes to spark a desperately needed Kangaroos revival.

After conceding the opening goal of the second half, the Roos had fallen 33 points behind. They had no option but to throw everything at Essendon in the exhilarating third quarter.
So, the Roos redoubled their attack on the ball and also landed twice as many tackles as the Bombers for the term.
Having looked cautious, they found some risk-taking run, particularly through Daniel Wells and Shaun Atley, and in the way they launched attacks off half-back, where Sam Wright took the game on.
The result was that they kicked seven of the 11 goals kicked in a third quarter where the ball flowed from one end of the field to the other.
But even then, Essendon fought on grimly, with Paul Chapman and Dyson Heppell two who continued to drive them on from the midfield.
At one stage Chapman grabbed the footy from a centre bounce, streamed out from the centre taking two bounces, and drove the ball long to Joe Daniher to take a contested mark one the goal line and convert.
The margin at the final change remained a nine-point lead to Essendon and the game was in the balance.
North only hit the lead for the first time 11 minutes into the final quarter, when Lindsay Thomas goaled from a free kick that resulted from a high Jason Winderlich tackle.
But in keeping with the drama of the night, Essendon snatched the lead back at the 18-minute mark of the final quarter when Paddy Ryder — subject to pre-game stories about his disenchantment with the club — took a one-hand contested mark and played on to snap from 45 metres.
In the build-up to this final, all of the talk was about how these teams were more flaky than a Good Friday pub menu.
But the defining moments were anything but flaky.

Essendon was superb early, opening up a 27-point lead at half-time by scrambling four unanswered goals in the second quarter, and three of them were the direct result of unspectacular little pieces of play that probably won’t make the highlight tapes: a half-volley gather, a spoil and a knock-on.

The first came after four solid minutes of pure arm wrestle, with both teams tackling ferociously but unable to break clear.

That changed in an instant when Brendon Goddard brilliantly gathered on the half volley a scrubby pass, resulting in the Bombers working the ball into an open forward line and eventually an easy goal to Travis Colyer.

Midway through the second term, with North breaking on the counter-attack, Zaharakis lunged to spoil a Daniel Wells pass to Michael Firrito, paving the way for Goddard to launch a 60-metre shot that rolled through for a goal.

Even better was to follow five minutes later, when Joe Daniher — prone on the turf after being mauled while attempting to take an overhead mark 25 metres out from goal — dove to smother a Sam Gibson to poke and then managed to knock it on into the path of Chapman for a goal.

Daniher produced probably his best game for the Bombers, kicking vital goals and working hard to bring others into the game, while Chapman’s experience was telling in the composure he showed under the frantic intensity of a cutthroat final.

But it was the North players who stood up.

Not just the ones who bobbed up with cameos, but the ones who worked hard to keep them in the contest throughout.

Wells was classy throughout and used the ball beautifully, while Levi Greenwood was typically committed to winning contested possessions, and had a remarkable 15 disposals in the final quarter.

Scott Thompson was exceptional in marshalling the backline and frequently repelled attacks, while skipper Andrew Swallow shaded Jobe Watson. Atley’s pace was critical in breaking the lines.

In the end, they all stood up. The Kangaroos looked like their season might be done five minutes into the second half, but they showed their resolve and kicked 12 of the next 17 goals.

Read More at North Melbourne defeats Essendon by 12 points in elimination final at the MCG

The prize for the Kanga’s efforts is a battle with the Cats next Friday which will be every bit as tough.

Sydney Swans beat Fremantle Dockers by 24 points

Fremantle will have to do it tough if they want to go one better than last year, after losing their qualifying final in Sydney.

Sydney has beaten Fremantle by 24 points at the Olympic stadium to secure a home preliminary final.

Sydney was on top for most of the day, but the Swans had to withstand a late charge from the Dockers in the final quarter before prevailing by 12.11 (83) to 10.9 (69) at the Olympic stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Swans midfielder Daniel Hannebery, who returned in round 23 after six weeks out from an ankle syndesmosis injury, had 27 disposals and six tackles in a strong display.

He told Grandstand the home side was relieved to have got the win against the side that smashed the Swans in last year’s preliminary final in Perth.

“It was a really tough game and it was great to have a really strong four quarter effort against what we think is one of the best sides in the comp,” Hannebery said.

“Finals footy goes up another notch in contested footy … we knew we had to match it with (the Dockers) there and to get on top would go a long way to us winning the game.”

Fremantle went into the game understrength in defence, and the visitors pushed an extra man back to try to negate Sydney’s tall forward line. Hannebery said the Swans were frustrated they did not take their chances in the first half, even against the extra man.

“We were probably a bit stiff in the first half not to be a few more goals in front,” he said.

“In the end I think we had enough inside 50s, enough ball in there for the forwards to get on top.”

The Swans missed some early chances before settling down and holding a three-point lead at quarter-time.

A goal to Matthew Pavlich put the visitors in front early in the second term, but Sydney kicked two goals to one in the remainder of a tight quarter to lead by five points at the main change.

The Swans made their move in the third quarter, booting four goals to one to take a seemingly-unassailable 22-point lead at three-quarter time.
Swans answer Dockers’ challenge in final term

But a goal to Cameron Sutcliffe got Ross Lyon’s men off to a good start in the final term, and when Michael Walters paddled the ball on to Matthew Pavlich in the forward pocket and he snapped truly a minute later, the gap was down to two goals.

Lance Franklin then brought the crowd to its feet, drilling the ball home from more than 60 metres out to restore an 18-point buffer for the home side, then kicking another one from 50 to leave the Swans on the verge of victory.

A goal to David Mundy was answered by a major for Mike Pyke, but the Dockers kept coming with a goal to Mike Pyke near time on.

It proved to be the Dockers’ final goal of the match, however, and the Swans sealed the win with a late score to Hannebery.

Pavlich kicked four goals for the Dockers, while Franklin and on-baller Ben McGlynn booted three for the Swans.

However the win was soured by a hamstring injury to defender Nick Malceski, which could end his finals campaign.

Sydney now has the week off, followed by a home preliminary final on Friday week at the same venue against either Geelong or the winner of the elimination final between North Melbourne and Essendon.


Friday night’s qualifying final between Hawthorn and Geelong was as close as it could be, until mid-way through the third quarter. The Hawks then pulled away for a convincing victory.

HAWTHORN is one win away from a third consecutive Grand Final after defeating Geelong by 36 points in a gripping qualifying final on Friday night at the MCG.

Sam Mitchell, Bradley Hill and Isaac Smith were dominant in the midfield, while Brian Lake held Tom Hawkins to just one goal as the reigning premiers won 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68).

Jack Gunston did much of the damage on the scoreboard for the Hawks, kicking three goals and narrowly taking the points in an engrossing duel with fellow All Australian contender Tom Lonergan.

Jordan Lewis also booted three majors, two of them late as the Hawks kicked four of the final five goals of the game.

“We were really pleased with our endeavour tonight,” Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said.

“We tackled well and put a lot of pressure on the Geelong ball-carrier.

“You just need to persevere in big games against quality opponents. We stuck at it and eventually broke the game open later on.”

Cats skipper Joel Selwood did everything he could to drag his team over the line.

He finished with 31 disposals, nine clearances and three goals, while Jimmy Bartel was another impressive performer, booting two majors, gathering 20 touches and taking a couple of sensational marks.

Steve Johnson slowed after a superb start, a foot injury that sidelined him for three weeks clearly limiting his impact the longer the game went.

However, Geelong’s hopes were undone by their inability to kick a competitive score, with Hawkins eclipsed by Lake one week after he kicked a career-best seven goals against the Brisbane Lions.

Chris Scott did his best to conjure some magic from the coaches’ box, throwing Harry Taylor forward in the second half.

But his team was unable to make up for the lack of goals from Hawkins.

Although Hawthorn largely controlled the final quarter, the first three were typical of the recent contests between the clubs, with the pressure fierce and the momentum swinging back and forth.

Geelong, which had lost only four first quarters for the season, made the pace in the opening 15 minutes.

The Cats kicked the first two goals, with much of their midfield drive coming from Johnson, who was back after three weeks on the sidelines with a foot injury.

However, the Hawks then took control, snaring a nine-point lead by quarter-time and extending their advantage to 14 points by midway through the second term.

Scott’s men soon rebounded, kicking two goals in the last minute of the opening half – the second of them a long bomb by Josh Walker after the siren – to level the scores at the long break.

Hawthorn regained the upper hand by kicking four goals to two in the third quarter, and the Hawks then ran riot in the final term.

AFL Premiership goes to Harbour City

In an AFL Grand Final that will be long remembered, the Sydney Swans beat the odds and the favourites to snatch the Premiership and take the title to Sydney for the second time. 

The battle between Sydney and Hawthorn was a classic that will remain long in the memories of AFL fans. The lead changed regularly and neither side was completely out of contention until the final siren. 

Swans snatch victory in classic grand final

The critics said Hawthorn was the best team all season, but Sydney’s famous pressure was matched by admirable poise in a wrenching final term as the Swans took out the premiership by 10 points.

The grand final surprised no one with its intensity – it was a game of bursts, and savage swings of momentum, with first one, then the other team looking down and out, before the Swans won 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81).

Both teams found kicking for goal difficult in blustery conditions, although thankfully earlier predictions of heavy rain and hail proved unfounded.

There was a symmetry to Sydney’s grand final, as Nick Malceski kicked the Swans’ first and last goals of the day.

In between there was only slightly-controlled chaos at the MCG, with six lead changes – each more improbable than the last.

After the game, Hawks captain Luke Hodge was gracious in defeat.

Hawks Captain Luke Hodge Gracious in Defeat

“Congratulations to Sydney, you’re not only a well-respected side, but you’re a well-liked side in the AFL,” he said.

“To my team-mates throughout the year I couldn’t be more proud of the way you fought back. With the group we’ve got I know we’ll be back next year.”

Swans’ coach John Longmire, who won a premiership flag in only his second season as a senior coach, praised Hawthorn and his counterpart Alastair Clarkson.

“You’re a fantastic club we really admire the way you go about it, we’ve had some fantastic tussles this year, this was another one – I’m sure there’s more to come,” he said.

“Thank you to our fans, we saw that much red and white at the parade on Friday we knew we would have big support (today) and we have … Lastly, I’d like to thank our footballers led by Macca and Goodesy … never say die is a great attitude, and you did it boys.”

By the usual metrics, Sydney should not have won the game – the Swans were beaten at the clearances (by 23), in contested possessions (by 26) and forward entries (by 18).

The missing piece of this puzzle was Sydney’s defensive pressure and rebounding out of defence, which kept the Hawks much-vaunted attack quiet for long enough – just – to get over the line.

Sydney had 46 rebound 50s to Hawthorn’s 26, and a massive 110 tackles to the Hawks’ 84.

The Swans’ defensive line absorbed the wave of Hawthorn attacks and more importantly did damage on the way back, with counter-attacking football that created goals at key points during the game.

Rebound power

There were many game-changing moments, but if one encapsulated the reasons behind Sydney’s win, it came at the 14-minute mark of the second term.

The Hawks had appeared unstoppable, with goals from Lance Franklin, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston threatening to break the game wide open.

Sydney had regrouped, however, with three on the trot from Josh Kennedy, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh to regain some momentum.

The Hawks needed to stop the flow, and they looked likely to do so, delivering the ball deep inside 50 to a contest.

Standing in their way was 20-year-old Alex Johnson, who corralled the ball and pivoted quickly to turn defence into attack.

He switched the ball to Malceski, who went straight up the corridor and found another Swans’ young gun Daniel Hannebery, who booted it long to spearhead Sam Reid, and the 20-year-old bounced the ball clear from 40m.

Within 15 or 20 seconds the Swans had engineered an effective 12-point turnaround, and they would go into half-time 16 points to the good.

Hawks rally

There were real and logical reasons why Hawthorn was favourites going into the grand final, and their playing group proved why in the third term.

Goals to Kennedy and Roberts-Thomson had pushed the Swans out to a 28-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the quarter.

Cue the usual suspects for the Hawks, with two goals to Lance Franklin along with majors to ruckman David Hale, forward Jack Gunston and Isaac Smith, as Hawthorn gave a vivid display of the kind of football that had made them the highest-scoring team in the league in 2012.

There was a point the difference at three-quarter time, and the tension switched to the Sydney side of the equation.

Dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes had jarred his knee and was struggling to run, ruckman Shane Mumford was limited by a hamstring problem, Jude Bolton was running on empty thanks to partial tears of his knee ligaments.

The bangs and dents of a physical grand final were beginning to take their toll on the Swans, and when Luke Breust and David Hale opened up the final quarter with goals for Hawthorn, a second premiership in five years was on the cards for Alistair Clarkson’s men.

But as the bounce of the ball began to elude tiring muscles on both sides, Sydney found another effort.

Final comeback

Daniel Hannebery was the first to score, followed by Kieren Jack – the son of Sydney rugby league royalty – and when Adam Goodes chopped a kick into the ground which bounced agonisingly slowly over the line, the Swans were seven points in front again two minutes into time on.

There was still time enough for the Hawks, and they had their chances, but misses from Breust, Gunston and Brad Sewell – whose 33 touches and 11 clearances could easily have made him Norm Smith medallist in a Hawks’ win – cruelled their chances.

Finally the ball fell to Malceski, who snapped truly to seal the game.

The victory gave Sydney its fifth premiership (including three as South Melbourne), joining triumphs in 1909, 1918, 1933 and 2005.

Veteran Ryan O’Keefe took the Norm Smith Medal, with 28 disposals and an amazing 15 tackles.

There were enough sub-plots to fill a book.

Canadian rugby international Mike Pyke was an unsung hero, taking vital marks in defence and spelling the injured Shane Mumford in the ruck.

The crowd of 99,683 had an early highlight, with the real running of the grand final sprint, as Sydney’s Lewis Jetta raced down the boundary with Hawthorn’s Cyril Rioli in hot pursuit.

Jetta proved he had the faster legs and disposed of the ball, with Rioli giving away a cheap free for a push in the back after the ball had gone.

On the Hawks side, captain Luke Hodge had his face cut open in an early contest, and played a brave match swathed in bandages.

Once again for Hawthorn it was a mixed match for Franklin. He showed his superstar status with huge, team-lifting goals, but again his kicking arc was a worry on set-shots, and his five misses could have made the difference.

Hawks forward Jarryd Roughead summed up the heart-breaking game for his team.

“Grand finals ebb and flow, unfortunately for us when the siren went we were gone,” he told Grandstand.

“If Buddy had kicked that (third quarter) goal puts us up by three goals … but they’re all what ifs at the moment.

“I think we had 60-odd inside 50s but only six or seven marks. That just proves how good a defensive side Sydney are.”…More at Swans snatch victory in classic grand final

Both sides will be in contention for the title again next year, but the horse trading as already begun in the AFL with several players already moving and the draft yet to come. 

A Huge Weekend in Sport

This is shaping up as one of the biggest weekends in Australian sport. If you are a fan of the various football codes, good luck getting anything done this weekend. Maybe you should save Friday night for working around the house, shopping or any of those things you feel obligated to do.

Rugby Union

Friday afternoon sees South Africa face Samoa in the Rugby World Cup. Samoa have really battled and looked good in this World Cup, but I can not see them beating South Africa on the form that the Boks have shown so far. So it looks like the end of the road for Samoa and all of the pre-tournament favorites to qualify for the knock out rounds will be going through.

On Saturday Australia face Russia in their final pool game and Australia will go through in second place unless Italy beat Ireland on Sunday, which is unlikely as the Irish are playing at their best in this tournament. Australia’s injury crisis is so bad that Robbie Deans announced today that Number 8 Radike Samo will be starting the game on the right wing. Of course such dramatic decisions would not be required if he sent home injured backs Rob Horne and Pat McCabe who are unlikely to play again in the tournament.

Straight after the Australia game France take on Tonga in WellingtonFrance will also go through in second place in their group, with New Zealand topping pool A and facing Canada on Sunday.

The final game on Saturday is the old Calcutta Cup fixture of England v Scotland. An England victory looks to be on the cards and Argentina is most likely to qualify in second place having beaten Scotland by a single point last Sunday.

Argentina faces Georgia on Sunday and an upset is unlikely. The other Sunday game not mentioned so far is Wales versus Fiji which should be entertaining, but the Welsh should qualify behind South Africa as they are also showing some good form in this tournament themselves, only losing by a point to the World Champions.


Also on Saturday in Melbourne is the AFL Grand FinalCollingwood take on Geelong at the MCG and it is a tough one to call. Collingwood have had a stellar season and are favorites with the bookies. But Geelong have beaten them twice this year in the home and away rounds. It’s really anyone’s game. Caarn the Cats.

Rugby League

On top of the Rugby World Cup fixtures on Sunday the NRL Grand Final takes place between Manly Sea Eagles and the New Zealand Warriors.

Manly are favorites to take the Premiership, but the Warriors have had some surprising results on the way through knocking off Minor Premiers Melbourne Storm last week to progress to the final. But everyone in Australia will be cheering for Manly, we could not stand a New Zealand team winning the NRL Premiership; we would never hear the last of it and not only from Kiwis.

English Premier League Football (Soccer)

The English Premier League has a big round of local derbies this weekend, kicking off with Everton hosting Liverpool followed by Blackburn Rovers hosting Manchester City. Probably a win for City despite their midweek Champions League stumble and the controversy over Carlos Tevez refusing to take to the pitch as a substitute, he could end up at Spurs as a similar thing happened with Emmanuel Adebayor.

Talking of Adebayor he will be in the Spurs side that will host his old club Arsenal on Sunday. He’s sure to get a warm reception from the Arsenal fans, who will be biting their nails on this one. After Arsenal‘s poor start to the season, a host of injuries and the lingering defensive frailties, a defeat to the old enemy is entirely possible.

But Arsenal showed in midweek that they can get a win even when their defending is suspect, recording a 2-1 victory over Olympiakos in the European Champions League. This was Arsenal’s 3rd win in 3 games (even if one of them was the second team against Shrewsbury in the League Cup) and saw goals from new boys Andre Santos and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is certainly going to give Theo Walcott a run for his place in the side.

Other good performances came from Alex Song and Mikel Arteta who has settled right in at Arsenal, even saving a certain goal with a goal line clearance on Wednesday. He’s not Cesc Fabregas, but the best you could hope for from a bargain picked up in the dying minutes of the transfer window.

Back to the weekend fixtures, the derbies continue with west London sides Fulham and Queens Park Rangers also meeting on Saturday. Manchester United play hosts to newly promoted Norwich, which looks like a one sided fixture, but as United have drawn their last two games there may be hope for the Canaries.

Keep your square eyes peeled and take in as many games as you can manage.