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Hawks should not cop the short straw

Tough luck: Hawthorn's chances in the 2012 grand final were not helped by having one day less to prepare.

Tough luck: Hawthorn's chances in the 2012 grand final were not helped by having one day less to prepare. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Hawthorn copped what could have been a significant disadvantage in its grand final preparation last year with good grace. The Hawks won't be so polite if they cop the short end of the straw again this September. And nor should they.

While there's still two rounds to go and plenty of different finals permutations on the table, one of the more likely is that in week one of the finals series Melbourne will host all four matches.

That means Etihad Stadium will need to be used for one of them. And it's entirely possible the Hawks, despite finishing on top of the ladder, will be forced to play their first final not at their MCG home but under the roof at Docklands.

If the ladder remains unchanged, that's probably what will happen, with Hawthorn drawn to play Fremantle likely to attract fewer fans than Sydney and Port Adelaide, who would be drawn to play Geelong and Richmond respectively. The AFL won't be discussing finals fixturing until there's a clearer indication of just who the match-ups will be.

But sources have already indicated that the criteria of potential crowd numbers will take precedence over ladder positions. And that's just wrong.

Consider for a moment the possibility of the Hawks finishing four, perhaps five games clear of Richmond on the ladder, yet being forced to play their final not at their preferred venue, but at Etihad, while the Tigers get a game on their home ground.

It wouldn't say much for the integrity of a competition that has already taken a battering on several fronts this year via the Essendon supplements scandal. Indeed, it would throw into doubt the whole point of striving to finish on top.

Hawthorn is well aware of the potential issue. And while the Hawks right now don't want to be seen as getting ahead of themselves, given two challenging assignments against North Melbourne and Sydney to come, they've vowed they wouldn't take such an insult without registering some pretty vocal protests.

"I think any team that finishes first or second on the ladder should expect to be playing a final on their home ground," Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold said on Monday. "Imagine if you said to Fremantle: 'Yes, you finished second, but you're not going to play your final at home because we think we might get more people at the MCG'. Why do we play our guts out to finish in the highest possible position, if they're going to arbitrarily take that advantage away? That's wrong."

And wrong for Hawthorn for a second year in a row. Last year, the Hawks finished on top, a game clear of Sydney, yet because of a fixturing clash with the NRL at ANZ Stadium, and the redevelopment of the SCG, came into the grand final on the back of one less day's preparation than the Swans.

Not wanting to be seen as being distracted from the main task at hand, Hawthorn made a point of not quibbling.

But while the AFL could argue then that its hand was forced by circumstances beyond its control, it can't do so this time. In 2013, consigning a top-placed team to host a final at a venue at which it would prefer not to play would be a clear choice of putting revenue ahead of reward for effort.

Of course, a Collingwood-Essendon final (if the Dons keep their points) or a Richmond-Carlton final (if the Blues make it) are going to draw plenty more fans than would the Hawks against the Dockers. But frankly, so what?

Far more important is to enshrine the advantage that should go with winning more games than your opponents. The top four teams get a double chance. And the top two should (and almost inevitably do) get to play at home.

Hawthorn's record at Etihad Stadium is good, having won its last eight games there. But that's not the point. It's a venue at which it will have played five games this season compared to nine at the MCG. Over the past two seasons, it's seven at Etihad and 25 at the 'G, the ground at which the flag will have to be won.

In an age where fixturing is already the cause of increasingly vocal complaints about revenue taking precedence over fairness, this is a perfect opportunity for the AFL to show that when it comes to the point of the entire football season, it values the latter more.

And if it can't, for once, sacrifice a few extra dollars at the turnstiles to give Hawthorn what its efforts during the season have earned, I reckon the Hawks have every right to be screaming at the top of their lungs about another finals injustice.

34 comments so far

  • Gee, finishing second and not getting a home final? What's their record down there again? I wonder if Geelong will whinge about not getting a home game.

    Suck it up Princesses

    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 11:53AM
    • @really? - While I sneer at your 'Princess' chide, I actually agree with your basic sentiment. I doubt the Hawks would fuss too much about playing at Etihad Stadium, so long as it's in Melbourne and the get the longest break between games. All those teams that don't use the MCG as a home ground have to change venue, it's not a big deal.

      Ted Kaboom
      Malvern East
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 1:43PM
  • Errrm .... and if the Swans host a final it will be at the Olympic Stadium not the SCG, their home ground, because you can fit more people in the Olympic Stadium and the AFL makes more money. It's not like it is going to be inter-state for them it will still be Melbourne.
    They must be choking again if this is the stuff they are focussing on.

    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 1:43PM
    • First, this is Rohan Connolly's opinion piece, not Hawthorn's, so they're hardly focussing on this issue.

      Second, it's not only legitimate, but completely reasonable that the top team should realise the reward of a final on their home ground. Sydney play at ANZ due to contractual obligations in place. In this scenario, the AFL would be shafting the top team in order to make alittle more money.

      Third, it's unlikely to happen anyway, as Freo will finish third and Sydney fourth. This means Haw v Syd will be at the MCG and Geel v Freo will be at Etihad.

      Aussie Tom
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 2:34PM
    • Mark,
      Who is focussing on this?
      You should focus on the fact you live in THE most boring place in Australia - enjoy.

      Date and time
      August 21, 2013, 6:42AM
  • If Geelong remains in second spot they also should get to play at the MCG rather than Etihad.

    Peter from Eltham
    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 1:51PM
    • I agree Peter, The top two sides deserve to play their games at the grounds that best suit them and give the greatest number of their supporters a chance to see them.

      It's tough luck that the 'big four' Victorian clubs will be in the bottom half of the finals and unfortunately will miss out on a few thousand people attending their final because they ended up in the bottom half. They'll still be able to squeeze 55,000 into Etihad so it won't be a total loss, just not 80,00 - 90,000 at the MCG.

      Interestingly, 8th is likely to be a much better spot for a Victorian team than 6th or 7th because it will likely be held at the MCG and will therefore be a bigger crowd (if everything is kept fair). Imagine the squeals form Collingwood if they end up 6th or 7th and have to play at Etihad!

      Fairs Fair
      Date and time
      August 23, 2013, 1:49PM
  • What a load of BS. Of the three recent GF's the Swans have played in the AUSTRALIAN Football League (two of which were against WA based Eagles), all were played in Melbourne. Do you hear them complaining about having to travel to MCG?? Seriously, harden up and understand that if the team is good enough they'll win anywhere. And if they they choke.....It has more to do with their performance, not the track they run at.

    Date and time
    August 20, 2013, 2:34PM
    • And if Hawthorn finish 1st, 2nd or 8th and make the Grand Final, it will still be on their home ground and they won't have to travel, unlike non-Victorian teams. Rohan, I hope you played to the interstate peanut gallery just as well as you do now to the Victorian one, in the past years when clubs like West Coast and Brisbane were disadvantaged by having to travel in order to play games they were entitled to play at home. I am sure Sydney would gladly lose a day's rest to play at the Olympic Stadium.

      Sydney Premiership 6
      Date and time
      August 20, 2013, 3:43PM
      • Pack up your bats and balls and piss off back to Western Australia/Queensland/south Australia/new south whales to where you came from. The VFL rocked until it was invaded by interstate whingers. Until you came along none of this was spoken about, so shut the f@&k up and bugger off, we still don't want you here. Bring back the VFL.

        Date and time
        August 21, 2013, 10:03PM

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