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Hawks sink determined Dockers

Hawthorn too strong for Fremantle, winning the 2013 AFL grand final by 15 points despite a spirited late fightback from the Dockers.

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HAWTHORN 2.3  5.5  8.8  11.11 (77)
FREMANTLE 0.3  1.6  6.10  8.14 (62)
GOALS: Hawthorn: J Gunston 4 J Roughead 2 B Hill C Rioli I Smith L Breust L Franklin. Fremantle: M Pavlich 3 M Walters 2 C Mayne D Pearce T Mzungu.
BEST: Hawthorn: Lake, Hodge, Gunston, Lewis, Birchall, Gibson. Fremantle: Mundy, Fyfe, Crowley, Barlow, Sandilands, Johnson.
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Mathew Nicholls, Brett Rosebury.
Official Crowd: 100,007 at MCG.


In all the gushing about Fremantle's incredible levels of defensive pressure during the week, people might have been forgetting something. That its grand final opponent wasn't bad at playing a tight and contested game, either.

Hawthorn players celebrate winning the 2013 AFL Premiership. Click for more photos

AFL Grand Final 2013 Hawthorn v Fremantle

Hawthorn players celebrate winning the 2013 AFL Premiership. Photo: Pat Scala

Time
FT
Team
HAW
Score
11.11.77
Team
FRE
Score
8.14.62
Hawthorn versus Fremantle
View Match Statistics
Players Gunston (4.1), Roughead (2.3), Rioli (1.2), Franklin (1.1), Smith (1.1), Breust (1.0), Hill (1.0), Burgoyne (0.1), Sewell (0.1) Scorers Pavlich (3.2), Walters (2.0), Mayne (1.0), Mzungu (1.0), Pearce (1.0), Ballantyne (0.2), Crowley (0.2), Barlow (0.1), Fyfe (0.1), Hill (0.1), Mundy (0.1), Suban (0.1)

Much of the focus on Hawthorn these past couple of seasons has centred around its precision kicking and scoring potency. But the Hawks have all facets of the modern game covered, and this 11th premiership owed much to them doing better than the Dockers what had come to be seen as Ross Lyon's team's calling card.

Hawthorn won the contested possession. It won the clearances. It won the tackle count. Unlike last year, when it also dominated most of the key statistical indicators but couldn't convert that edge into something more meaningful, this time it hit the scoreboard as well. And in the key moments, it was the more seasoned grand final team which was more efficient and cool-headed.

Like early in the game, when it kicked the only two goals of the first quarter as Fremantle, palpably nervous, sprayed chances everywhere. Again in the second term, as the Dockers won a greater share of possession, but saw Hawthorn nonetheless kick the first two goals again, and three out of four for the quarter, the Dockers stuck on a somewhat embarrassing 1.6 at half-time, the lowest score at the long break of a grand final since Collingwood had just 1.0 against Melbourne in 1960.

Most importantly, it held its nerve in the third quarter as Fremantle finally clicked into gear. The Dockers booted four of the first five goals to edge within three points, but twice the Hawks steadied with answering shots. And in the last term, Hawthorn simultaneously took the heat out of the contest and soaked up the remaining time on the clock with three well-crafted goals.

Its biggest heroes spoke volumes of the lengths to which Hawthorn went in 2013 to fill what few holes there were in the make-up. Like an accomplished and experienced key defender who could not only curtail the biggest opposition key forwards, but create some drive of their own. Brian Lake did all that and more, the Norm Smith Medal his reward, his 22 disposals and 10 marks, of which no fewer than seven were intercepts, proof enough of the value of his recruitment.

Smart forward Jack Gunston missed a "gimme" at a critical stage of last year's devastating loss to Sydney. On Saturday, he nailed all the clutch shots, four goals making him a tight and scrappy game's highest individual goalscorer. That was symptomatic of the greater sharing of the load at Hawthorn these days, bigger names in Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Cyril Rioli only contributing five between them, Indeed, all of Hawthorn's lesser lights made a bigger contribution than they had in this corresponding game 12 months ago.

Hawthorn is a strong and proud club. It had won 10 of the 16 grand finals it had contested before this one, and after three of those losses had rebounded to win the following year's flag. The way the Hawks began on Saturday showed how intent they were on making that four times. Certainly, if Fremantle was looking for an early steadier, it wasn't going to find one. From the outset, it was the Dockers looking more unsure, their disposal less precise, and golden chances to hit the scoreboard missed.

Nat Fyfe was typical of the wastefulness. Prolific around the ground and courageous, he was superb in general play, but one of the worst culprits when it came to making the chances count, taking two big grabs near goal in the first 13 minutes and in turn spraying each one of them out of bounds on the full. Hayden Ballantyne fumbled a mark and could score only a behind from the hurried snap which followed. Nick Suban ran in and missed from 45 metres. That was all in the first term.

Hawthorn, meanwhile, didn't look nearly as susceptible either to its opponent's pressure or the swirling breeze which was clearly a factor. It took the Hawks only three-and-a-half minutes to post the game's first goal, Gunston slipping in front of Zac Dawson to mark and convert. And the Dockers didn't make it any easier on themselves. Lance Franklin had a tough shot at goal until Luke McPharlin stepped over the mark and "Buddy" took it from the goal line instead. That made it 11 points, and still the Freo fumbles and stumbles continued, Ballantyne taking the ball in the centre circle, a promising attack looming, only to slip over and lose possession.

And what attacks the Dockers mustered were shooting back instantaneously like from the bumpers on a pinball machine courtesy of the Hawthorn half-back line.

By half-time, Hawthorn's four leading possession-getters weren't the usual midfield suspects, but four Hawthorn defenders, Luke Hodge and Brian Lake with a dozen disposals each, Grant Birchall and Josh Gibson with 11 each. They were allowed to rebound without nearly enough pressure, the Hawks racking up 41 uncontested marks in the first term along to Freo's measly 16.

Nevertheless, a 12-point quarter-time deficit was hardly insurmountable, and Ryan Crowley, having taken on the game's most publicised match-up against Hawthorn possession machine Sam Mitchell, was doing a masterful job, Mitchell with just four touches to the first break.

Fremantle dominated the first few minutes of the second term, too. But again it was Hawthorn which actually hit the scoreboard. These Hawks were driven, and nothing said it more than the speed with which Franklin charged out to meet a bouncing ball near the 50, fed off a handball to Rioli, who popped one over the top to Gunston for his second.

And when Rioli converted a dubious free kick paid against Docker defender Lee Spurr by umpire Simon Meredith for holding the ball only 25 metres out, it was 24 points and things were looking ominous. Freo's first goal, through the agency of Tendai Mzungu, couldn't have been any more timely. But it was answered quickly, too, Gunston using his body cleverly to outmark Dawson again and boot his third.

Something had to happen pretty quickly, and pretty spectacularly, if the Dockers were going to be any chance at all after half-time. Enter midfield pair David Mundy and Michael Barlow, both of whom stepped on the gas. Enter Pavlich, if not commanding at least getting on the end of a free kick and a handball to boot two badly needed goals. Enter Michael Walters, a spectator early, but suddenly dangerous with two quick goals.

The Dockers were 8-1 in clearances for the term by the time Chris Mayne reduced the gap to just three points, 8-1 for inside 50s. But Roughead and Gunston stemmed the tide. Jordan Lewis took his turn to impose himself on proceedings. And the biggest single moment of the match came only four minutes into the last quarter, courtesy of Isaac Smith's thumping goal from 55 metres out, Luke Breust's snap and Brad Hill's tap further daggers through the Fremantle heart.

Typically, the Dockers kept slugging it out. Danyle Pearce's snap and third to Pavlich brought it back to 19 points with just under seven minutes to play. A missed snap from Ballantyne and another from Pavlich again might have had the odd heart fluttering. But you didn't really sense that the Dockers could pinch it.

They were up against a side that, like them, knew how to take the sting out of the remaining minutes. More importantly, one which knew how bitter a close grand final loss tasted. And because of that, the final couple of minutes for Hawthorn, victory assured, were sweet indeed.


Rohan Connolly's votes:

Brian Lake (Haw) ..........8
Jack Gunston (Haw) .....7
David Mundy (Frem).....7
Luke Hodge (Haw)........7
Nathan Fyfe (Frem).......7