JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Hawks in pole position

Date

Jake Niall

Hawthorn's Jordan Lewis is tackled by Nic Naitanui.

Hawthorn's Jordan Lewis is tackled by Nic Naitanui. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

HAWTHORN 7.1 10.6 11.10 14.11 (95) WEST COAST 1.3 4.4 5.7 10.10 (70)
GOALS Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Gunston 3, Rioli, Hale, Smith, Breust, Hodge, Puopolo, Burgoyne. West Coast: Darling 3, McGinnity 2, Schofield 2, Gaff, Waters, Hill.
BEST Hawthorn: Mitchell, Roughead, Sewell, Franklin, Suckling. West Coast: S Selwood, Darling, Masten, Hill, Schofield.
INJURIES Hawthorn: Guerra (hamstring), Whitecross (corked thigh), Gunston (ankle). West Coast: Kennedy (ankle).
UMPIRES Stevic, Nicholls, McInerney.
CROWD 50,023, at MCG.

FOR the Hawks, their final home-and-away game of 2012 delivered what they wanted: the minor premiership and a game in Melbourne, rather than Adelaide or Sydney, in the first week of the finals.

That first September outing is unlikely to be a genuine ''home'' final, assuming Collingwood is competent enough to best Essendon tonight. If the Pies cannot, then we will see a repeat of last night's pre-finals final, in which West Coast made a charge that was beyond belated - it came hard, from more than seven goals behind, following a run of four goals, to close to 19 points.

Do the limbo. Hawthorn's Luke Hodge battles with Eagle Sam Butler.

Do the limbo. Hawthorn's Luke Hodge battles with Eagle Sam Butler. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

As it happened: For live blog: click here.

The Eagles were coming from far back, too late, however. Their run-on was assisted by what was the greatest downside of the match for the Hawks, a bad hamstring to defender Brent Guerra.

A goal to Luke Breust 17 minutes into the final quarter quelled any anxiety among the brown and golds, whose 25-point margin wasn't a reflection of a match that contained precious little suspense. The Hawks more or less killed the excitement in the first quarter, with seven goals to one, including four to Lance Franklin, who seemed a chance to boot 10 and perhaps reclaim the Coleman Medal that his hamstring had stolen. But Buddy did little thereafter. The Eagles gained some ground, without really threatening until that final quarter flurry, when Guerra left the field and the Hawks tired, their unlikely sub, Cyril Rioli, having entered the game late in the third quarter.

Lance Franklin marks. Click for more photos

AFL Round 23 : Hawthorn v West Coast Eagles

Hawthorn has finished the season defeating West Coast Eagles by 25 points and giving them the minor premiership for the first time in 23 years. Final score 14.11 (95) to 10.10 (70). Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

So there was a phoney Eagles comeback at the death and an impressive Hawks blitz at the start, in which their extraordinary kicking skills diced an admittedly sluggish West Coast defence and midfield. The middle period of the match was one of stasis, as the scores bobbed between five and six goals.

In the third term, there was only one goal to each team, the Hawks not producing any until Jack Gunston nailed his third from outside 50 metres.

The Hawks were propelled, as ever, by Sam Mitchell and his midfield accomplice, Brad Sewell, and by the underrated brilliance of forward/ruck Jarryd Roughead.

They narrowly beat the Eagles for contested balls and inside 50s. Unsurprisingly, it was their ball usage and greater potency in attack, where Gunston and Franklin shared seven goals, that proved decisive; even at quarter-time, they had been in their attacking 50-metre arc only twice more than the Eagles.

Franklin's electric first quarter was significant to the outcome, albeit he was finishing the well-crafted work of others rather than conjuring goals from half chances. Buddy booted the game's opening two goals - the first one of those patented ''out-the-back'' goals in which Franklin is pitted one-out in a sprint to the goal line, chasing a bouncing ball - a race that no defender wants.

The return was spectacular, but the goals themselves weren't; three of those four majors were the result of superb kicking from teammates - Brendan Whitecross finding Franklin on a long ball, while Mitchell, a brilliant user of the ball, twice nailed him on the lead for goals. Even the first goal was created by a very effective 55 metres kick into space by Hawthorn's super boot Matt Suckling.

The Eagles afforded the Hawks far too much space in both the midfield and even in the flag favourite's front half. It is difficult to defeat Hawthorn even from five goals ahead early in the match. To spot the Hawks almost six goals in the opening quarter is like trailing the Jamaican 4 x 100 metres relay team before the baton is handed to Usain Bolt. They aren't easily caught.

The Eagles, though, have demonstrated a willingness to scrap out games and they mounted a mini-surge - not quite a comeback - in the second quarter, as a pair of goals to the exceptionally gifted Jack Darling and another to Will Schofield closed the margin to four goals. The Eagles pressed and, for a fleeting moment, there was the possibility of a serious contest.

But Sewell, whose relentless productivity has been concealed by Mitchell's brilliance in the same midfield, created a goal with a deft grubber kick along the boundary, setting off a classic Hawthorn chain of possessions that ended with the accurate boot of Shaun Burgoyne.

Then Buddy tapped brilliantly to Gunston, surely one of the best converters in the game. Gunston's snap pushed the margin back beyond six goals, which it would remain at half-time.

The Eagles hadn't been awful to this point; they had not been efficient, though - their forwards, Darling and Josh Hill aside, were quiet - and they were not clean enough in the stoppages. Scott Selwood was clearly their most prolific and effective player. Their evening was best reflected in the two halves of Matt Priddis, normally their main distributor. None of his six clearances were in the formative, first half. Eagles ruckmen Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui won plenty of hitouts but had little influence around the ground.

The Eagles, thus, have likely landed in Perth, in a cut-throat final, rather than back here against the Hawks, who, regardless of who they encounter, are unlikely to be beaten by any team that spots them six goals.

BRING HIM ON

Cyril Rioli coming back from injury was the luxury choice as substitute. As the crowd chanted ''Cyril'' in the third quarter, urging the coaches to bring the electrifying forward on, l Alastair Clarkson held his nerve. With less than three minutes to go in the third term Rioli finally came on. He was on the end of a chain of play to goal in the opening minutes of the last quarter.

FREE WAY

The Hawks were the dominant side but not in the free-kick count. At half-time, the Hawks led by 38 points but had drawn just four free kicks, including only one for the second quarter. The Eagles had nine. Typically the dominant side draws more free kicks. At the end, the Eagles had 19 frees to Hawthorn's 13.

NO MONKEY BUSINESS

When Lance Franklin gathered the ball beyond the wing in the last quarter and turned to see grass between him and the goal it seemed he was about to open up another high reel. Jacob Brennan, son of Eagles premiership player Michael Brennan, was on Franklin and chased him down the wing and harassed the error even as Franklin handed off to Rioli and got the ball back. The young Eagle, one out against two of the best players in the league, had not been beaten. - MICHAEL GLEESON

Featured advertisers