The Hawks are through to the AFL Grand Final as everyone expected but it wasn’t so easy. In what would have been one of the great finals comebacks/upsets the Crows fought back from a 22-point deficit to lead by 1 late in the last quarter. It was only a commanding final five minutes from man of the match Cyril Riolo that swung the game back into the Hawks favour as they escaped with the 5 point win.
The Luke Hodge-less Hawks will take plenty encouragement from the narrow victory. The end score is irrelevant at this stage of the season, it’s the result that counts. They will be disappointed with their accuracy but the superior number of shots on goal gave a clearer indiction of the Hawks dominance then the final score. Shutting down Lance Franklin will always be the key objective for oppositions but the key forward fought hard last night and finished with three goals. Brad Sewell was also magnificent in the midfield regularly clearing to the forward line with his 28 disposals. Luke Hodge’s absence made a noticeable difference and his versatility will be a key factor next week for the Hawks.
Grand Final opponents the Sydney Swans will have mixed feelings about last night’s performance. On one hand they will be buoyed by the Crows dogged mid-field efforts, but on the other they will know that the close encounter will serve to refocus the much lauded Hawthorn outfit who were uncharacteristically sloppy in front front of goal scoring 13.19 with 10 more shots on goal than the Crows. The Swans will feel they can better Crows in several key areas. Brad Rutten handled Buddy Franklin well but Swans have a more than equal match as long as Teddy Richards is fit. Patrick Dangerfield had an absolute belter of a game, putting his body on the line all game and coming up with 28 disposals. The Swans have Daniel Hannebery and Kieran Jack who both come from the Dangerfield mould and will contest relentlessly and accumulate plenty of disposals all day. And the Crows benefited from an on song Kurt Tippett and emerging superstar Taylor Walker who kicked 4 each. The forward line has been considered the Swan’s weakness but with Brownlow favourite Josh Kennedy in career best form and Adam Goodes featuring heavily in recent weeks, the Swans are capable of scoring plenty of points. Not every team has the luxury of having that player with the X-factor in their squad. Cyril Riolo is playing that roll for the Hawks at the moment but it is Lewis Jetta who shapes as the Swans wild card with his blistering pace igniting the Swans attack on several occasions against the Pies.
Did the Hawthorn believe they hype. Were they complacent or did they just come up against a red hot young Crows team who were not going to return to Adelaide without giving it a good shake. For the most part it was execution rather than lack for effort that allowed the Crows back into the game. Against the Swans I wouldn’t imagine we’ll see either. A refocused Hawks will be back on track next Saturday but not many teams have been able to pile points on against the Swans in recent years. All signs point to thriller
Pictures by Quinn Rooney at Getty Images