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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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The ball was dribbling towards the AFL members' wing in a swirling wind at the moment Hawthorn atoned for 2012 and won its 11th premiership, a 15-point, blue-collar victory achieved by a star-studded side over the gallant grand final debutant Fremantle.

Buddy Franklin was the closest man to the football when the final siren sounded, perhaps for the last time in brown and gold, signifying perhaps just how unexpected has the script of Hawthorn's season proved as it powered towards the premiership expected of it.

On top of the world: Hawthorn's Luke Hodge, John Kennedy and coach Alastair Clarkson celebrate.

On top of the world: Hawthorn's Luke Hodge, John Kennedy and coach Alastair Clarkson celebrate.

Franklin managed a solitary goal but achieved enough heavy lifting while his sometimes brilliant team-mate Cyril Rioli was neither flashy from the flanks nor streaming across the MCG, rather workmanlike laying seven tackles in a dour, low-scoring but intriguing contest in front of a crowd that cracked 100,000 for just the third time since the AFL was formed.

One year ago, said new premiership captain Luke Hodge, his coach Alastair Clarkson assured his heartbroken team that not a lot of tweaking was required. ''Just a little,'' he said, ''and you'll be standing up there next year with medals.''

Few would have predicted in the immediate aftermath that the most effective tweak of all would prove a 30-something defender traded in from the Western Bulldogs in Brian Lake. Even fewer would have picked Lake as the 2013 Norm Smith medallist and in another twist the chairman of the coveted medallion's voting panel was Lake's old coach, Brendan McCartney.

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

Lake was a general in his first grand final, with Hodge directing traffic when the game was on the line early in the last quarter. The match had threatened to become a walkover before Fremantle's devastating post-half-time comeback after a stuttering one-goal opening half.

The game's best and most controversial tagger, Ryan Crowley, was devastating in figuratively strangling the Hawks' generally effective Sam Mitchell but later took little solace in his own game, capturing verbally just how dangerous the Dockers proved in a third quarter in which it quadrupled in 14 minutes its goal tally from the first half.

''It's hard not to think we were coming,'' said Crowley. ''It felt like we were coming, and we were trying to exude that we were coming so maybe they got under a bit of pressure. But it's a long time ago now.''

Crowley sat alongside his shattered teammates as skipper Matthew Pavlich tried to make some public sense of his first grand final in front of a bipartisan stadium studded with purple. ''It's a bitterly hard pill to swallow,'' said Pavlich, who kicked three goals in the second half. ''We'll dust ourselves off and lick our wounds and we'll be back.''

For either coach losing was going to prove all the more poignant. Clarkson had looked to be starting another Hawthorn dynasty when his young team snatched the 2008 premiership and yet it has taken him five years and with a team boasting just nine players from his first flag.

Among the first-time premiership players there was no luckier young man than 25-year-old former Cat Jonathan Simpkin - a VFL premiership player one week ago and called into the side as its substitute Brendan Whitecross was forced out after damaging his knee in the preliminary final. At three-quarter time Clarkson gave Simpkin a fatherly hug as he sent him out to battle, withdrawing ruckman Max Bailey.

For Ross Lyon who has coached Fremantle in two short years to a previously unknown credibility, it was his fourth grand final as a senior coach for no premiership. ''I think I read Malcolm Blight lost his first three and went on to win a back-to-back,'' said Lyon. ''So he had the fortitude to keep working, keep backing himself in. I certainly see that I'm not going to crumble … We are here to win premierships, we fell short, I thought they were a bit better on the day but I thought we were right in it. Who knows?''

While the Dockers sat and stood in football's most sadistic position, watching the Hawks' medal presentations, Lake carried his young son and daughter into the arena shortly before the presentations.

''I'd like to thank Hawthorn for taking me in 12 months ago,'' he said on the dais. ''To the family here and the Hawthorn supporters - bloody fantastic.''

The Lake masterstroke has been attributed to Hawthorn's retired champion turned quiet director Jason Dunstall, who at the end of 2004 overruled his multi-premiership teammate Dermott Brereton in selecting the little-fancied Clarkson, who is now a two-time premiership coach.

Hawthorn's father-figure John Kennedy, who would have presented the cup last year had the Hawks defeated Sydney, handed it to Clarkson one year late and his booming voice was just captured as he instructed the highly sought-after 45-year-old coach: ''That's all yours fella. Go on, get up there.''

Kevin Sheedy, presenting the Jock McHale Medal to Clarkson, embraced him after commenting: ''Well done you angry ant.'' But few vanquished coaches in AFL memory have been more gracious in defeat than the Hawthorn mentor was last year and 12 months later he perfectly captured the tone of the season. ''It's been a tough year for our code,'' said Clarkson. ''But it's when you have days like this and you have 100,000 crowd into the MCG to watch two great sides we still know that our code is thriving.''

Fremantle had never before been on the MCG on September's last Saturday and it showed in a nervous first half when the jittery Dockers became the first team in more than a decade to register a goalless first quarter.

Then after half-time Lyon implemented Plan B and the Dockers' midfield led by the brilliant Mundy executed it.

''At the moment it's pretty raw,'' said Ryan Crowley. ''I hate saying this but a lot of teams have said you've got to lose one to win one … I'm hoping that's the way.''

''We know exactly how you feel,'' Hodge assured the Fremantle camp before accepting his first premiership cup as captain, ''and we have absolutely no doubt you will be back here next year.''

The reality of the football market ensures that Monday could bring sweeping changes for the club, which stands to lose its marquee player and has even endured speculation that its senior coach was being headhunted.

But unholy celebration stands between the final siren and October business and the Hawks can also celebrate their sixth straight decade punctuated by premiership victory. No other team in the AFL can claim that.