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?

Posted in AFL