In the preliminary final, the Hawks prevailed narrowly over the cursing Cats, despite the failure of their forward ''trinity'' of Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Cyril Rioli, to produce goals.
The trinity managed just one goal - a Buddy gimme from the goal line, created by Luke Breust's tap, in the last quarter. Franklin and Rioli were returning from suspension and injury; Roughead, the Coleman medallist, was subdued with just 0.1. The Hawks thus relied on dead-eye Jack Gunston, David Hale and the high footy IQ of Shaun Burgoyne - cast as a makeshift forward in the final quarter - to extricate themselves from infamy.
Peter Schwab, Alastair Clarkson's predecessor as Hawks coach, is among the many Hawthorn folk who reckon Franklin, Roughead and Rioli collectively will need to produce a sizeable bundle of goals if the Hawks are to win the premiership that was lost on the back of failure to convert last year.
''They wouldn't want another [final] where they don't get a significant goal-score contribution from those three - Rioli, Roughead and Franklin,'' said Schwab. ''If they could kick six between them, average two … in a final, that'd be significant.
''Hawthorn's got more firepower in their front half - there's no doubt about that. You know, you've got Rioli, Gunston, Roughead, Franklin, Breust. Compared to Fremantle who have [Chris] Mayne, [Matthew] Pavlich, [Hayden] Ballantyne, [Michael] Walters who are probably keys and it depends on what your midfield can do … I think potentially Fremantle can get more goals from their midfield.''
In finals, goals become more precious than in home-and-away football. When playing ''Rossball'' - against the maniacal defensive pressure of a Ross Lyon-coached team - the degree of difficulty for each goal is far greater; the Dockers concede only 69 points per game, easily the best record in the AFL, and restricted Geelong to nine goals at Simonds Stadium in their finals eclipse. Many clubs give up almost nine goals in a quarter at the Cattery.
Hence the need for Franklin, Roughead and Rioli to find the goals that went missing last Friday. If, as Schwab suggests, the talented trio don't produce a respectable goal tally, Hawthorn's chances of premiership redemption will be greatly compromised.
Schwab reckoned the other part of the Hawthorn wish-list would be to score freely early, forcing the disciplined Dockers to ease the throttle and open up the game. ''The key for them will be how quickly they can score early. If they can put Fremantle under pressure early … if you can score on the board it sort of unsettles their defensive structure, maybe then they have to become more offensive to catch up,'' he said. ''I think Hawthorn will win but I think it will be a really tough game.''
Franklin, who could well be playing in brown and gold for the final time, has been a consistent finals performer over the course of his career. Last week's modest output was atypical. He averages 3.5 goals per game in finals (45.28 in 13 finals), which exceeds his home-and-away average of 3.2 goals per game. His conversion rate of 61.6 per cent means he's also better at nailing his shots in September than from April to August (home-and-away conversion is 57.6 per cent).
He was criticised for his profligacy on grand final day last year, when his inaccuracy (3.4) reflected his team's yips - a pattern that was repeated against the Cats last weekend. But the inaccuracy bug isn't just his - Roughead scored only 1.5 from three finals last year and didn't kick one last Friday, while Rioli had an excellent qualifying and preliminary final in 2012 before he was smothered in the grand final by his ex-Scotch College teammate Nick Smith. He was likewise quelled by the Cats last weekend, albeit he was fleeced of a likely goal by a mystifying advantage call by the umpire.
In a contest pitting the game's greatest restrictor and its best offensive unit, the Hawks will struggle to avoid suffocation if their trinity remains invisible.