"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" ... Jeff Kennett. Photo: Joe Armao
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 launched under his presidency.
Having already reached one of the key elements of the vision which started at the end of 2007 - to eclipse 50,000 members - the Hawks needed to defeat Sydney in the grand final to fulfil the second goal, that of a second premiership within the five-year timeframe that has now ended.
Kennett said Saturday's 10-point defeat was ''clearly a lost opportunity'' as he believes the Hawks were the best team this year.
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 in a grand final epic, prompting 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 said Hawthorn had been dealt a poor hand in scheduling by being forced to play their preliminary final a day later than Sydney, despite finishing top of the ladder.
Usually the highest-placed finishing side 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 said he was surprised 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 have been steadfast in refusing to blame the preliminary final scheduling.