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Hawks' window still open, Swans true heavyweights

Date

Rohan Connolly

HAWTHORN
For a club used to winning the big ones, a 10-point grand final loss, the Hawks' first defeat on the biggest day for 25 years, will sting. As coach Clarkson put it, though, get yourself in a position to win the ultimate often enough and you're going to lose the odd one. Hawthorn could have made more of its first-quarter dominance, and missed some chances to wrap it up at the end. Had a few too many at the bottom end of the 22 who had quiet afternoons, and losing the hardness as well as kicking skills of Guerra may have taken a bigger toll than first thought. But recriminations and finger-pointing should be kept to a minimum, as the Hawks didn't get much wrong for the vast bulk of the preceding 25 weeks, and not even on Saturday. Clarkson might want to revisit the ruck strategy, and another big-bodied defender wouldn't hurt, but it isn't as though major weaknesses in structure or personnel have suddenly been revealed. With a still relatively young list, Hawthorn's premiership window isn't in danger of closing for at least a couple of years yet.

SYDNEY
Sydney's 2005 drought-breaking premiership was a football romantic's dream, but there's something more convincing about the way the Swans added to the trophy cabinet in 2012. While the same strong streak of character and workmanlike ethos of that era remains, this is a team that has far more strings to its bow than mere midfield grunt and defensive stinginess. The addition of more run and creativity to the mix, typified in the presence of the exciting Jetta, and an on-ball contingent that not only bats deeper, but can get on the attack as well as hold its own in the clinches, has been the cream on top which allowed the Swans to go from worthy finalist tag to officially the best team in the competition. Coach Longmire confirmed his 'coach of the year' status with another well-crafted tactical triumph, the finishing touch on the smoothest of handovers from predecessor Roos. Time the Swans were regarded as a true AFL heavyweight, their consistency of performance and now two flags in seven years demands it.

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