ARGUABLY the most relieved man at Hawthorn yesterday was Ryan Schoenmakers, the Hawks' centre half-back whose brain fade late in the final quarter gifted a goal to Adelaide's Jason Porplyzia and almost cost his team a spot in the grand final.
Schoenmakers laughed it off yesterday and denied that any heat had come from combustible coach Alastair Clarkson after Hawthorn's five-point win, but admitted to a certain outpouring of emotion.
''I think there was a bit of relief at the end from everyone,'' he said. ''But Clarko was just happy that we got the win and we're through. Hopefully we put that behind us now and we look to next week.''
Schoenmakers, who was monstered by Kurt Tippett throughout the game, buffeted Porplyzia to the ground in a show of strength after the Adelaide player had made high contact on Hawk David Hale inside the final minutes. The umpire reversed the original free kick paid to Hale, and Porplyzia kicked the goal to start a Crows surge.
He continues to polarise opinion about his value to the team, a year after a conspicuous dropped mark hurt Hawthorn in its preliminary final loss to Collingwood. This time, he is a key defender in a grand final team, likely to play on Sydney's Sam Reid.
''It's very exciting,'' he said. ''I don't really know what to think at this stage. I don't know if I've quite taken it all in. I'll let it sink in over the next couple of days.''
Schoenmakers believes he has improved in 2012. ''There's been some ups and downs but I've been pretty happy with my season so far. I suppose the true test will be this weekend. That will be the real mark of how successful the season has been.''
Relief was a common emotion at Hawthorn yesterday as players gathered for a recovery session and some meetings to prepare for the biggest week of their careers.
''There are things to work on,'' said defender Matt Suckling. ''It was disappointing not to play the way we wanted to play for the whole game, but we're in a grand final. So there's no complaining now.''