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The 'G will divide and conquer

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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Timelapse - grand final parade

A timelapse of the wild and rainy buildup of the grand final parade.

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SOME would have this grand final as a contest for Melbourne-Sydney honour. They are like uniformed Japanese sentries who, until the '70s, periodically emerged from the jungles of Malaysia, still fighting a war that was lost more than 20 years previously. This is, first and last, a meeting of two forces of football nature, equal and opposite.

Their mutual respect was manifest at yesterday’s rainy parade. The captains, Luke Hodge and Adam Goodes, are friends, who talked on the Treasury steps yesterday as easily as if at a summer barbecue. The coaches, Alastair Clarkson and John Longmire, are old teammates. Their first coach, John Kennedy, is the patriarch at one club, a grandfather at the other. Kennedy versus the Kennedys; it is almost presidential.

Hawks and Swans meet as peers today down to the last detail: one player from each team, each a regular, neither a star, tore a late-season hamstring and is out. It is akin to an exchange of sacrifices. Moreover, the unlucky Swan, Ben McGlynn, is a former Hawk.

History beckons: Captains Luke Hodge (left) and Adam Goodes hold aloft the premiership cup on the Treasury steps.

History beckons: Captains Luke Hodge (left) and Adam Goodes hold aloft the premiership cup on the Treasury steps. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The Sydney Swans barely exist in Melbourne’s consciousness. Hawthorn almost disappeared from it, and then came roaring back. Hawthorn once was almost forced to merge, Sydney this year had to divide. Sydney is everyone’s second team, Hawthorn no one’s. Sydney is admired, Hawthorn feared — but both are envied, today especially.

Both clubs had to move out of home to survive. Neither left without heartache. The Swans went interstate, the Hawks into the suburbs. But they keep a spiritual home at Glenferrie, and will gather again there tomorrow, come what may. The Swans, much more than Fitzroy/Brisbane, kept a place in Melbourne hearts; that was clear at the parade. Tomorrow, they will commune in South Melbourne.

Each wears its heritage on its sleeve, or thereabouts. The Sydney guernsey has SMFC inscribed on its collar, Hawthorn’s sports on its breast ‘‘Tasmania’’, the club’s regular weekender.

The Auskick kids rug up for the wet weather. Click for more photos

2012 AFL Grand Final Parade

Fans gathered on a drizzly Melbourne day to support their favourite Hawks and Swans players ahead of the 2012 Grand Final tomorrow. Photo: Pat Scala

History matters to both. Hawthorn recruits are given a crash course in it by club legend Peter Knights. It is not so much about the colours, which Knights admits are a particular taste, as all that has happened in them.

It works. Shane Crawford has watched rookies absorb the litany and silently mouth: ‘‘Wow.’’ Knights says Clarkson’s feat has been to graft an ultra-modern game plan onto this rich history; he has synthesised future and past.

For the Swans, Sydney was a chance to leave behind what had become stale in its past while cherishing the best of it. It has become the club of the rejuvenating second chance.

Still smiling: It rained on the AFL parade today.

Still smiling: It rained on the AFL parade today. Photo: Pat Scala

A former player said  emigres rejoice in an almost  childlike way at the opportunity to play football and ‘‘hang out’’ with teammates weekdays with the Melbourne clutter. ‘‘They fall in love with the game again,’’ he said. It is a love that keeps conquering.

Sydney is the team that never goes away, Hawthorn the team that keeps coming back. Each has memories of a recent premiership to draw on, Sydney in 2005 and Hawthorn in 2008. Yet of each flag, only remnants remain: four of Sydney’s team, 10 of Hawthorn’s. Modern footy is about never standing still.

Hawthorn’s team is largely draft-built, customised if you like. Sydney, like Geelong, eschews manoeuvring for draft position. Its team is off the rack, and much of it second-hand and brilliantly revitalised.

But these generalisations hold only up to a point. Goodes, Sydney’s captain and greatest modern player, was unearthed from deep in the draft. And Josh Gibson, who will play on Goodes today, is one of three Hawks from the recycling bin.

At ground level, the state-versus-state fantasy begins to look ridiculous. There are 11 Victorians in the Hawthorn team, but 13 in Sydney’s. In fact, a sizeable chunk of the Swans went to Hawthorn schools. Two from Scotch, schoolboy contemporaries, are likely to play on one another. More than state versus state, this is mate versus mate.

Both clubs have been trailblazers in the ever greater compression of the modern game. But both have had to adapt, too. Today, philosophies collide. Hawthorn is statistically the best attacking team of the season, Sydney the best defensively.

Historically, the best defence prevails. But historically, there have been few Lance Franklins and Cyril Riolis.  The form line says Hawthorn, loudly. The Hawks have won 14 of their past 15 games, and lost the other after the siren. Sydney lost three of its past four home-and-away games before regathering itself in the finals.

But last week the Hawks got a hell of a fright from Adelaide, and the Swans did a little frightening of their own, against Collingwood.

Some think the fright will have done Hawthorn good. Some think the frightening will have done Sydney even better.

Another history inflects on this game. For Hawthorn, the MCG is home, where it mostly plays and usually wins. Sydney rarely plays there, and almost never wins, losing 14 of 15 there since 2009.

Chief among the theories advanced is that the Swans, denizens of the compact SCG, are not suited to the MCG’s broad acres. But last week Lewis Jetta looked like the sort of exception that could quickly become the rule.

Besides, hoodoos are like records, there to be broken, usually inopportunely. Until last week, Sydney had not beaten Collingwood since 2005.

About today, there are two forecasts: rain, and Hawthorn. History teaches that one is bound to be wrong.

Related Coverage

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs WCE 13:45ES
GWS vs ADE 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs COL 16:35MS
HAW vs SYD 19:20MCG
FRE vs NTH 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
PTA vs RIC 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 7 7 0 0 144.44 28
West Coast Eagles 7 5 2 0 156.58 20
Sydney Swans 7 5 2 0 130.51 20
Adelaide Crows 7 5 2 0 123.60 20
GWS Giants 7 5 2 0 117.45 20
Hawthorn 7 4 3 0 152.96 16
Collingwood 7 4 3 0 120.42 16
Western Bulldogs 7 4 3 0 100.00 16
View all
 
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