Hawthorn's Luke Hodge is tackled by Lewis Jetta. Photo: Pat Scala
HAWTHORN 3.4 4.7 9.9 15.15 (105) SYDNEY 3.3 4.7 5.8 7.9 (51)
GOALS Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Hale 2, Roughead 2, Hill, Lake, Anderson, Breust, Shiels, Bailey, Spangher, Puopolo. Sydney: Tippett 2, Rohan, White, Jetta, Pyke, O'Keefe.
BEST Hawthorn: Hodge, Mitchell, Burgoyne, Lake, Sewell, Bruest, Birchall. Sydney: Kennedy, Jack, Bird, Richards, Rampe, Parker.
INJURIES Hawthorn: Rioli (ankle, replacedShiels).
UMPIRES Shane Stewart, Brett Rosebury, Dean Margetts.
CROWD: 59,615 at MCG
This was Vulnerable Hawthorn. No Franklin, no Rioli, and the big-ticket summer buy Kurt Tippett stalking the forward line of the team that no one needed reminding had beaten them in the last final they played. Vulnerable Hawthorn is a very impressive Hawthorn.
The top side, without two top players, is still a 54-point better side than last year's premier.
AFL Qualifying Final: Hawthorn v Sydney
Hawthorn was too strong for Sydney, winning the first qualifying final by 54 points at the MCG . Age photographers Pat Scala and Sebastian Costanzo covered all the action from the match. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
- Q4 29:00
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Gunston (3.1), Roughead (2.2), Hale (2.0), Breust (1.2), Anderson (1.1), Hill (1.1), Shiels (1.1), Bailey (1.0), Lake (1.0), Puopolo (1.0), Spangher (1.0), Birchall (0.1), Hodge (0.1)||Scorers||Tippett (2.0), Pyke (1.1), White (1.1), Jetta (1.0), O'Keefe (1.0), Rohan (1.0), Hannebery (0.2), Kennedy (0.2), Mitchell (0.1), Parker (0.1)|
For a half, Hawthorn absorbed Sydney's blows, matched the Swans for will, and blunted the sharp end of what shaped as a threatening attack. Then, having kicked four goals for the first half, they kicked four goals in 12 minutes and ended this match as a contest.
The last quarter became the period that killed not only the idea of Sydney winning this match, but the idea that it could win a second flag in a row.
The reason was not who was missing, but who was there. More pertinently it was because Luke Hodge was comically good across half-back. No other player in the game has an opponent and yet manages to also be the loose man like Hodge.
Nominally Jesse White was the player to attempt to demand Hodge's attention. He offered him the sort of attention a parent does while reading the paper as their kids play on monkey bars, aware of the potential for danger but not in any urgent way.
Every one of Hodge's kicks for three quarters met its destination. His chip kicks, his raking kicks - on his right foot - met their target.
Even when wrapped in a tackle he eased the ball to drop on his foot and bounce up to a teammate. His first, and only ''ineffective'' kick, was deliberately booted to space on the wing whereupon a teammate ran on and won the ball. Even ''ineffective'' Hodge is effective. (We will ignore the lazy swing at a ball in the goal square that he swiped and missed as being a Keith Miller moment where the level of difficulty was too low to be deserving of his talents.)
Hawthorn counter-punched through Hodge and Sam Mitchell across half-back when Sydney had adopted a surge mentality from the first bounce to thrust the ball forward to the three tall forwards as quickly and regularly as possible.
It was a game that was always denied its electricity without Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli but one that was more primal for its energy.
Sydney looked threatening in the first quarter, less menacing in the second and impotent in the last two. The Hawks prised open the Swans' defence with quick ball movement and once open there was no returning the genie to the bottle.
Hawthorn almost took more uncontested marks in the third quarter of the qualifying final than they did in the entirety of last year's grand final - a true reflection of the difference in ground-wide intensity and pressure from the Swans. This Sydney outfit was able to maintain that pressure for a half only.
While the Swans had brought in Tippett as the damaging new forward, Hawthorn had likewise introduced the understated Brian Lake to its back line to stand just this sort of player. Lake won the battle.
Without Franklin, when Hawthorn went forward its options early were less persuasive than normal. Of course, there was the Coleman medallist Jarryd Roughead and the unerringly accurate Jack Gunston, but for a time they could not find them, Ted Richards doing well to quell Roughead early. Matt Spangher was the player there because Franklin was not. He has played 36 games, none of them overly convincing that he could fill the Franklin breach in a final and yet he performed admirably. He kicked a goal in the first quarter, he found the right spot to be to create a contest and drew the defenders wide to open the space for others.
DIP IN LAKE
Kurt Tippett seemed to figure full-back Brian Lake was putting on only nominal pressure when, in a slow play, he decided to run end to end to the Hawks forward line to create a marking option. Tippett followed him up the ground but was left flat-footed when Lake ran past him to a pass and marked the ball on the 50-metre line. He took his shot from 50 and lobbed it over the goal line.
Those who came to the MCG hoping to see another match race between Cyril Rioli and Lewis Jetta would have been desperately disappointed. Rioli was a late withdrawal, as many expected, and Jetta wore the red vest for much of the night. Jetta, however, did have an instant impact when he went on, scoring a goal within seconds.
Hawthorn gave its forwards plenty of opportunities inside the forward 50, grabbing 20 marks to eight in that zone. Jarryd Roughead and Jack Gunston recorded an equal game-high four apiece, while Mike Pyke was the only Sydney player to grab more than one (three).
INJURED SWANS SORELY MISSED
The Swans just didn't have enough contributors on the night, with eight players failing to reach double figure disposals. Every Hawks player reached or exceeded that mark with the exception of the two players that were involved in subs.