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Time to collide


Rohan Connolly


While it won't be a blowout, Hawthorn's superior skills and potent attack should deliver the flag.


Hawthorn and Sydney have never met in a grand final, and only four times in finals of any description, the scoreline 3-1 in the Hawks' favour, the most recent victory only last year, when they comfortably beat the Swans by 36 points in the second semi-final. Their two meetings this year have been split: Sydney running all over Hawthorn in the second half in round five in Launceston to win by 37 points; the Hawks squaring the ledger in a round-22 classic at the SCG, when they hauled back a 38-point deficit to win by seven.

Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge and Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh.

Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge and Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh. Photo: Getty Images



It is easy to forget now how, early this season, the Hawks' enduring status as premiership favourites was being seriously questioned.

The Hawks were 2-3 after five rounds, having lost another game they should have won to traditional nemesis Geelong, a slog in Perth to West Coast, then being surprisingly overrun in the second half against Sydney in Launceston.

Since then, however, the record has been nearly faultless, with 17 wins from the past 19, the exceptions being that after-the-siren loss to the Cats, and a round-nine aberration against Richmond when the Hawks clearly didn't turn up to play and were belted by 10 goals.

Most of those wins have been convincing to say the least, their average winning margin this season a whopping 59 points, and only one of those victories by any less than 22.

They ranked a clear No. 1 in the competition with an average of nearly 122 points per game, as good as two goals per game better than their nearest rival, and third for points conceded, allowing only 79 per game.

Even the absence of superstar spearhead Lance Franklin for six games with a hamstring strain did little to halt the scoring spree. Buddy's lay-off merely enabled Hawthorn to experiment and bed down some seriously viable alternatives, Jack Gunston in particular a beneficiary. Eight Hawks have kicked more than 20 goals in 2012.

The defence, while not overly loaded with height, is solid indeed, the cornerstones being more support for each other and effective, precise kicking out of the back line than particular individuals. However, Josh Gibson has been a tower of strength on the former count with his spoiling ability and capacity to act as a third man in marking contests, and Grant Birchall and Matt Suckling the epitome of the latter.

Ryan Schoenmakers has continued to develop this season, but last night proved vulnerable again at the hands of a bigger, stronger key forward. Gibson will need to give him a decent chop out on Saturday.


It has become an annual ritual to underestimate Sydney. Sure, the Swans are competitive and willing, but just as surely, their alleged lack of superstars of the game will eventually leave them short enough of the mark, goes the theory.

Last year, Sydney seemed to underscore that theory. The Swans finished seventh, winning a tick over half their games, got themselves up to win a final, but were soundly beaten by Hawthorn at the semi-final stage. Not enough to inspire a popular belief that, in 2012, there would be a quantum leap.

But continued, gradual improvement is a sorely underestimated quality in a football world that tends to see most things in absolutes.

Sydney defenders Alex Johnson and Nick Smith are names many Victorian fans struggle to identify, yet both have been integral to the Swans' make-up for a while now, the former a cool-headed, understated tall; the latter perhaps the lowest-profile effective small defender in the AFL.

Throw in a now All-Australian key defender in Ted Richards and another undersold but consistent key backman in Heath Grundy, plus the run of Nick Malceski, Marty Mattner and Rhyce Shaw, and you have the makings of one impressive defensive unit - No. 1 in the competition for points conceded.

The midfield drivers are Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Ryan O'Keefe, Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack and Jude Bolton, but more than half of Sydney's best 22 are capable of spending time on the ball, offering enormous flexibility and alternatives in the event of one or two individual bad days.

This is a relentlessly tough unit, having this season ranked No. 1 for tackles, equal first for contested ball and a close third for clearances.

Neither are the Swans shabby in attack, ranked No. 5 for points scored this season at 104 points per game, three goals better than last year, nine players having kicked more than 20. Nominal key target Sam Reid had a poor one on Friday night but it barely mattered, with Sydney still racking up 30-odd shots at goal.


John Longmire's seamless taking over of Sydney's coaching reins from Paul Roos must rank as one of the most quietly effective transitions the caper has seen, the former North Melbourne spearhead now having overseen 31 wins from 48 starts as a senior coach at an imposing strike rate of 64.6 per cent.

The long-time assistant has maintained the Swans' famous levels of intensity around the ball, but added some more run and attacking flair, Sydney still famously stingy but even more dangerous on the transition from defence now than it used to be.

Longmire's low-key public demeanour belies a strong personality that isn't afraid to ruffle feathers when need be, the Swans never in doubt as to what is required from them individually and as a team, and what the consequences will be if it isn't delivered.

Alastair Clarkson, his rival on Saturday, has long been acknowledged as one of best tactical brains in the business, having taken Hawthorn to the top four years ago on the back of the now-famous ''cluster'' defence, but in recent times having set another new standard with a precise and skilful kicking game capable of piercing the seemingly tightest zones.

A fiery customer whose anger has caused headlines, he is famously loyal to his troops, who respect him in equal measures, and bristles when he believes they have been unfairly maligned.

Now in his seventh season at the helm, Clarkson has guided Hawthorn into finals action six of the past seven years. A second premiership on Saturday would place him high indeed among the greatest coaches the modern football era has seen.


Hawthorn plays well anywhere but has saved its best for the grand final venue, its home ground for the past 13 seasons, using its precision kicking to fullest advantage. The Hawks have won 20 of the 28 games they have played at the MCG since the start of 2011.

Sydney shrugged off a major hoodoo against Collingwood on Friday but will have to topple another on Saturday to win the flag. The Swans have won just one of their past 15 games at the MCG in a line of failure stretching to 2007, their last victory more than three years ago, and their only appearance this season ending in a 29-point loss to Richmond.


Sydney stunned Hawthorn with its intensity at the contest early in round 22, but once the Hawks had stirred in midfield, their superior skill level and greater potency in attack held sway. This grand final won't be a blowout, but the same factors should prove decisive again.

Hawthorn by 28 points.

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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