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.PT1M35S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ul7j 620 349 September 28, 2013
Nat Fyfe marked brilliantly over Jarryd Roughead, kicked at a goal and missed everything. Then Fyfe rose like a wraith again, and marked, and missed the lot again. To the several shades of purple that helped to create such a strking visual effect at the MCG on Saturday could now be added another: the complexion of Fremantle coach Ross Lyon's face. It was not yet mid-way through the first quarter.
The missing went on and on, and off and off. In the second quarter, Danyle Pearce kicked out one on the full, and Matthew Pavlich kicked a behind, and Fyfe got closer, but still missed; that behind would remain his only score in an otherwise admirable grand final for him. Hayden Ballantyne marked inside the forward 50, and kicked out on the full. In the Fremantle box, puce was the new purple.
Fremantle had a bout of accuracy in the third quarter that put it back in the match. You could say it was a purple patch. But the jitters returned in the last. The Dockers had the last seven shots at goal for the match, but only Pavlich kicked one. If there was a moment when it could have been deemed safe to hand the premiership cup over to the engraver, it was when Ballantyne kicked at goal from 25 metres, and sent it out on the full. Now the colour drained away altogether from Lyon's face.
Hawthorn's Paul Puopolo, Lance Franklin and Jack Gunston celebrate on the siren. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
It was followed by the miss that Hawthorn's now exultant fans most cherished, agent provocateur Ryan Crowley's. It was enough to bring a jeer to the eye. Hawthorn's goalkicking was as much of a contrast to Fremantle's as it colours. The Hawks kicked away last year's grand final, and simply would not do it again. Jack Gunston kicked goals with his first four shots, from near and far. So often in finals, the stars cancel out one another and role player becomes the difference. For Hawthorn this year, it was the dapper Gunston.
Lance Franklin's kick from 50 metres in the first quarter fell short, but Luke McPharlin encroached over the mark, conceding 50 metres and another kick for Franklin from the goal-line. It would remain Franklin's only goal of the day on which he appeared to be fading from the Hawthorn scene. At the start of the last quarter, Isaac Smith kicked a left-foot ball-burster from 55 metres out anyway.
It is only a slight simplification to say that this is how the grand final was won and lost. Have a look at the stats: in the most fundamental KPIs, there was no separation. In the maul around the ball, it was the same. There, as expected, possession was a qualified concept; almost post-modern; the ball was not much kicked as willed from area to area.
AFL Grand Final 2013 Hawthorn v Fremantle
Hawthorn players celebrate winning the 2013 AFL Premiership. Photo: Pat Scala
Goals had to be unearthed from beneath this torrid struggle, and so the worth of each became measurable in carats. And the Hawks kicked them, not in their usual profusion, but enough to win this day, and Fremantle missed them, and kept on missing them.
Why, is for Hawthorn to know and Fremantle to spend the summer trying to ascertain. Conditions? The wind swirled all day, but no more swirly for the Dockers than the Hawks. Grand final nerves? They were plain to see. The effect of Hawthorn's relentless attack on the Dockers' psyche, equal to or greater than their own? This also was self-evident. In the almost naive drawing up of terms for this finale, this aspect of Hawthorn's excellence was overlooked.
If you were to pick a technical difference, most of Fremantle's misses were from further out than Hawthorn's hits. This was the Hawks' triumph, firstly to deny the Dockers flow from midfield, then to have in captain Luke Hodge and full-back Brian Lake footballers able to read not just the play, but the players. too. They were Hawthorn's pillars of Hercules. Fremantle prides itself as the "anywhere, any time" team, but Hawthorn is the "anybody, any how" team. It averages nearly 20 goals, but won a grand final with 11.
Lyon's teams are famously committed, but his way is draining. He is a goal denialist; his teams begrudge opposition goals, but are miserly in kicking their own. In four grand finals, Lyon's teams have kicked a total of 34 goals. Whether winning or losing, margins tend to be small, but difficult to surmount. On Saturday, the Dockers rallied from 31 points down to trail by merely three late in the third quarter, but the effort visibly told. At three-quarter time, at least five Dockers had their hands on their knees. You knew then that their comeback was over.
Fremantle will not see it so, but it was achievement enough to make this grand final, and so bring to the day a colour, a spirit and a dimension not seen before. But as an event, it peaked beforehand, when nothing had happened and anything still could. Fremantle did not do itself justice. Partly, that was because it played a team resolved on make reparation for the injustice it did to itself last year. Partly, it was because the whole day became like so many moments in it for the exasperated Dockers, an opportunity missed.