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Hawks atone but Freo set for return

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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 won the AFL Grand Final at the MCG in front of 100,000 fans over Fremantle by 15 points. 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.

36 comments

  • Can't help thinking how Geelong blew their chance to play in a GF. I thought the GF was an anticlimax compared to others gone by. Thee were no real highlights of heavy hits or run downs or spectacular marks and goals.

    Commenter
    Harry Calihan
    Date and time
    September 29, 2013, 7:28AM
    • I have to agree, Harry. So many times during the tedious first half of yesterday's game, I kept thinking: this would be such a better game if Geelong were playing Hawthorn - or Freo, for that matter! At least the Cats would have managed a goal during the first quarter!!!!

      Commenter
      Harry Taylor Appreciation Society
      Location
      FTG
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 9:21AM
    • First of all, congratulations to Hawthorn. Definitely deserved to win the Flag this year. However I do agree this was a disappointing game as a GF. No great or heroic moments that I can recall. No Dan Hannebery being crunched in a brave mark and setting the standard, no Jetta-Rioli race up the wing, no booming 70 meter goals form Buddy reigniting the Hawks, no Adam Goodes on one leg kicking a clutch goal. There was no Scarlett toe-poke, no horrible Steven Milne bounce or great smother a la Heath Shaw on Riewoldt. Great, solid game from Lake and a redemptive one from Gunston, while the Hawthorn pressure was impressive. But no Grand Final-remembering moments. I'm sure Hawks fans won't care, though!

      Commenter
      Dreuxy
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 10:11AM
    • Ha, You'se guys sound more bitter than Caro.

      Commenter
      micko
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 11:06AM
    • You have to let it go and move on. Bitterness masked as analysis doesn't cut it. Envy is the real curse. The best team for the year has won the premiership and those waiting for us to choke have to eat humble pie.

      Commenter
      Steve k
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 11:53AM
    • Geelong didn't play in the Granny because Freo rolled them...case closed.
      Sour grapes boys.

      Commenter
      The_Truth_
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 4:26PM
  • Brain Lake, took so many game saving marks in the last qtr, but should get weeks for his very late elbow. Plus Riolis tackle on Barlow which earned him a free kick, he had him by the wrist and twisted his arm up and behind his back.

    But besides those silly acts, what a great game. Freo cane back and made a game of it, but hawks where to strong.

    Commenter
    Chris
    Date and time
    September 29, 2013, 8:09AM
    • And not forgetting the ugly clawing of Sam Mitchell's face

      Commenter
      adgy
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 8:54AM
    • He may not be Luke Hodge, but Lake still plays for MRP darlings Hawthorn.
      He'll get nothing for that crude elbow.

      Commenter
      Harry Taylor Appreciation Society
      Location
      FTG
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 9:19AM
    • I think when Bradley Hill kicked his goal that extended the lead to 30 points half way through the last quarter then the game was pretty much won. Brian Lake played very well in the last quarter but none of the marks he took could really be called game saving.

      Commenter
      One Chance
      Date and time
      September 29, 2013, 12:49PM

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