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The scare Hawks had to have


Rohan Connolly

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Hawks edge Crows in thriller

Hawthorn has booked a spot in next week's grand final after an almighty scare from Adelaide.

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Hawthorn has the fundamentals in place to win the flag.

FEW teams in football history have been so superior to their rivals that they've bulldozed their way through a season, then a finals series, to waltz away with a premiership.

There's always some sort of hiccup. The key to an eventual triumph is in the response that follows.

Key Hawk: Lance Franklin at a news conference.

Key Hawk: Lance Franklin at a news conference. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

No side in recent times has looked as dominant come the pointy end of the season as did Geelong in 2007. The Cats would thump North Melbourne by more than 100 points in the qualifying final. They'd win the flag by a record 119 points against Port Adelaide.

But in between they were given one hell of a fright on preliminary final night by a pumped-up Collingwood, finally prevailing in an absolute nailbiter by only five points. And there were echoes of that game in Hawthorn's near disaster against a gallant Adelaide on Saturday night.

Not that the Hawks, having survived, are now going to do anything like the sort of beat-up job Geelong did on grand final day five years ago. Unlike the Cats, in Sydney they'll be taking on an outfit more highly rated than was the Power then, the Swans more consistent in performance levels.

Key Hawk: Cyril Rioli celebrates a goal.

Key Hawk: Cyril Rioli celebrates a goal. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Sydney's September has been near faultless, two authoritative wins thus far, and with the added confidence of having already beaten Hawthorn once this season, and pushing it to the brink in the return bout.

But, from the Hawks' perspective, if there were any lingering doubts about Alastair Clarkson's team's psychological mettle, the preliminary final should have put them to rest.

That ''choke'' label was getting a bit of a workout in football circles during Saturday night's final term as Hawthorn looked a real chance to succumb to the Crows in similar fashion as it had against Collingwood 12 months previously. But not for the first time recently, the Hawks found something a little extra when it mattered most.

Instantly, in fact. At the centre bounce immediately following Adelaide snatching the lead, a seamless bit of clearance work from Shaun Burgoyne found Cyril Rioli right in front of goal. It was followed only a minute later by Ben Stratton's game-saving tackle on Patrick Dangerfield headed goalwards, the rebound producing the match-winner.

The Hawks of 2012 have a harder mental edge than the version of last year. And that might well be the difference between an 11th premiership on Saturday, and more September heartbreak.

Since an ordinary start to the season left them sitting 2-3, they've won 17 of 19 games, by an average of nearly 10 goals. In one of those two losses, against Geelong, they hauled back a deficit of 51 points to lead until after the final siren. And against Sydney three weeks ago, first retrieved a 38-point gap, then after trailing by five points with two minutes left on the clock, kicked the last two goals to clinch the win.

Rioli was one of a few Hawks after Saturday night's epic who conceded they'd suffered a flash of deja vu about the 2011 preliminary final. At least now, should the last few minutes on Saturday present a similar line-ball struggle, they can draw upon more recent experiences of finding something in those clutch moments.

What issues did present themselves on Saturday night were of execution and structure. While 32 scores to 22 should have resulted in a comfortable win, a 13.19 score was an extravagance Clarkson's side can't afford this week.

But 64 inside 50s to just 38 is some comfort that the opportunities should be there again, and wins in the contested ball and clearance stakes, along with a 59-39 win in the tackle count, enough evidence that Hawthorn has its hard game at enough of a peak to cope with Sydney's renowned intensity.

The concerns are down back, chiefly key defender Ryan Schoenmakers' confidence levels and vulnerability to the one-on-one marking contest given successive finals maulings at the hands of Travis Cloke and now Kurt Tippett.

The good news there is that in an out-of-sorts looking Sam Reid and Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Sydney doesn't possess targets quite as intimidating.

Hawthorn has this season allowed scores from only 47 per cent of opposition inside 50s. On Saturday night, that figure soared to nearly 58 per cent. Hawks' defensive coach Luke Beveridge might be burning the midnight oil a little longer than some of his colleagues this week.

Sydney, as it did a few weeks back, will throw the kitchen sink at the Hawks in midfield. But so did Adelaide, and Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell, Jordan Lewis and co survived that barrage to offer their usual prolific returns.

Hawthorn will need to tidy up its normally crisp disposal efficiency a little from Saturday night's levels.

The fundamentals are in place for a flag win. And in terms of mindset, Saturday thriller might well prove the scare Hawthorn had to have.

31 comments so far

  • Folks out here tell me the Hawks were lucky to win, but I tell 'em the Crows were lucky to even get close. As for the Swans, well, I haven't seen Hawthorn play two bad ones in row in recent times: it will take a mighty team to topple them this Saturday.
    By the way, I sure wish I had a ticket....

    Victoria West
    Date and time
    September 24, 2012, 1:17AM
    • You're spot on Rohan, but I do feel for Ryan Schoenmakers. He always gets the opposition's biggest and most damaging forwards, Hawkins, Tippett, Cloke and battles manfully. He's not the only one being towelled up by these guys. He was flying the flag on Saturday night for Hale who should have been paid a 50 metre penalty as well as a free. In these days of NO BUMP football they nearly paid the untimate penalty. The penalty way over the top for a piece of overacting by the porpoise. Apart from that, he's very young and needs bulking up being only 84kgs, but cut him some slack, he's still learning the craft and will get better.
      The game started with Hawthorn in full flight but not putting it on the scoreboard, had they kicked straight it would have been over at quarter time. They looked rusty, maybe a week without a game played a hand in that. The game itself was heart stopping and Adelaide put in a superb display and nearly did the unthinkable. I was thinking late in the last when they hit the front OMG not again, we need our senior guys to step in here and they did. It was reassuring to see Burgoyne's, Cyril's and Buddy's silky work wrestle the game back for us. I think that's the difference between Hawthorn and the rest, a lot of players with the X factor. In the end Sanderson and his players showed the football world that second place on the ladder wasn't a fluke, they were fantastic and must be hoping to keep Tippet for next year.

      Date and time
      September 24, 2012, 6:46AM
      • Well said. Shu is still a 21yo boy and when some gorilla kicks 4 or 5 goals on him it makes headlines. Two weeks later they do the same to a Lonergan, Rutten or Glass and you don't hear a peep. I guarantee he never does something stupid like the free kick reversal again because he is a good learner. It was disproportionate and shouldn't have been paid but you can never give the umps their chance to 'shine'.

        Date and time
        September 24, 2012, 9:24AM
      • Jacques: "They looked rusty, maybe a week without a game....."
        Swans had a week without a game too and they didnt look rusty.
        (From a well-seasoned Hawks supporter whose first grand-final attendance was the very disappointing 1975 North Melbourne/Hawthorn game)

        Date and time
        September 24, 2012, 12:48PM
    • Congratulations to Hawthorn. And well done to a fantastic Adelaide team and Sando who took the game on after being written off by all and sundry. Bring on 2013...

      Date and time
      September 24, 2012, 7:14AM
      • "...Ben Stratton's game-saving tackle on Patrick Dangerfield headed goalwards, the rebound producing the match-winner.."

        Are you kidding me!?! Conveniently forget that Dangerfield didn't have the ball when he was tackled and dragged to the ground. Adelaide was on the receiving end from the umpires all night, including the appalling 50m penalty against David McKay that produced a goal, and 'free kick' to Buddy Franklin after he attacked Rutten over the boundary line.

        Date and time
        September 24, 2012, 7:17AM
        • Frees were 24 to 21, hardly surprising when you look at all the match stats. None were as unmerited or potentially match-turning as the 'reversal'.

          Date and time
          September 24, 2012, 8:52AM
        • The Hawks get soft frees - they are the current AFL pin up boys so get looked after. Take the last game against the Swans. 12 point turnaround from 2 disgraceful umpiring decisions (confirmed as incorrect by the AFL on the Monday morning). Take the umpire errors out of the equation and the Hawks have lost to the Swans twice the year.

          Get ready for a red and white upset (so long as the umpires don't get in the way).

          Date and time
          September 24, 2012, 9:19AM
        • Pick another example. It was a great tackle for which you would have been proud if it were one of your boys.

          I've heard the comments about umps favouring the Hawks - can't see it. There were a couple of howlers both ways but ok otherwise. This weekend will be scary re: umpiring with Sydney in the GF... you may have seen the last game at the SCG between the two!!!

          Date and time
          September 24, 2012, 9:30AM
        • Try and watch the game without your blinkers - Dangerfield was tackled with the ball and went to ground in the tackle. What else is Stratton supposed to do?

          Date and time
          September 24, 2012, 9:39AM

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