Jeff Kennett in the Hawthorn rooms after the grand final. Photo: Paul Rovere
FORMER Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has apologised to the club's members and says he feels he has failed them after the Hawks fell agonisingly short of achieving the ''Five 2 Fifty'' plan first launched under his presidency.
Having already attained one of the key elements of the vision announced at the end of 2007 - more than 50,000 members - the Hawks needed to defeat Sydney on Saturday to fulfil the second goal, a second premiership within the five-year time-frame.
Kennett admitted the 10-point defeat was ''clearly a lost opportunity'' given he believes Hawthorn was the best team during the season.
Although ''deeply wounded'' by the result, Kennett said he was not angry - as he was after last year's preliminary final capitulation against Collingwood - because ''Sydney were without a doubt the better team on the day''.
''We earned the right to play in a grand final, which is not an easy thing to do and I've been very proud with what the team has delivered, but on the day we were beaten by a better unit,'' Kennett said yesterday.
''And that means that the objective of the 'Five 2 Fifty' plan was not achieved and I apologise to the members for that because I feel as though I've failed, and we've failed to deliver.''
Alastair Clarkson's men led by 12 points at the 11-minute mark of the final quarter before being overrun by the Swans, causing some Hawks supporters to wonder whether having less time than Sydney to recover from the previous week's preliminary finals was a factor.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou conceded Hawthorn had been dealt a poor hand in fixturing, forced to play its preliminary final nearly a day later than Sydney despite being minor premier.
Usually the highest-placed team at the end of the home and away season is granted the Friday night preliminary final slot but, given Sydney's ANZ Stadium was booked for an NRL preliminary final on the Saturday, the Swans' game against Collingwood was brought forward.
While stressing that less recovery time was no excuse, Kennett admitted he was surprised that the AFL decided to abandon the formula that gives the higher-placed team more recovery time.
''Certainly I think a lot of people were very surprised at how the AFL decided to reward the team that finished on top,'' Kennett said.
''But there is no point crying now, there is no point in pointing the blame at anyone else but ourselves.
''You don't know what the AFL are going to do. The whole system of the order of where teams are finishing the year and recognising that achievement was overturned by the AFL for reasons of their own.
''But that, in itself, did not cost us the game on Saturday.''
Even though clubs go to extraordinary lengths to optimise recovery time between games during the season, Hawthorn has been steadfast in refusing to blame the preliminary final fixturing.
''You still won't get that as an excuse from us,'' Hawks football manager Mark Evans said the day after the grand final.
Kennett said reaching the grand final again next year ''won't be an easy task'' for Hawthorn.
''No one can be confident of playing in that last day of September, every team is now having to go back to scratch, start again and earn the right,'' he said.
''I would like to think we would perform well, but there is a lot of work to be done before we get there.''