Well there was certainly plenty of hype around this game. Journalists (and channel 7 in particular) were eager to tell us how much they were looking forward to the Grand Final rematch. But hang on, the Grand Final was an embarrassing thrashing that appeared to highlight a massive gulf between the two sides and most people (except for Hawthorn supporters, most of whom are still classed as people) stopped watching after half time.
What’s so exciting about a rematch of that game really? I personally struggle with the notion that the Swans’ players would be extra motivated to play better this time. Seriously, for professional athletes, the chance to win a premiership wasn’t enough for them to try hard last year? Hmmm.
You could argue Hawthorn perhaps had less motivation, but anyone coached by the very impressive Competitive Clarkson (who seems to be unfairly targeted and picked on by fans, junior football umpires, interchange stewards and the walls of coaching boxes) knows they always turn up to play.
I also hadn’t been particularly sold on the Swans this year (apart from the game they played against Port, which was very impressive) and with the Hawks bringing back three good players, I wouldn’t have been surprised by an actual replay of last year’s grand final. Thankfully I was to be very mistaken and treated to one of the better games of footy I have seen in the last few years.
Predictably, Channel 7 went over the top with their intro. A ridiculously deep voiced announcer prattled on about redemption while some dude on screen played with a grinder (the power tool, not the app) for some reason. Mercifully, the pregame rubbish is a bit like foreplay, in that you only have to put up with a certain amount of it before you get what you are waiting for (luckily my wife doesn’t like football so she will probably never read this page, but just in case- love you sweetie).
The game started with a bit of scrambling and scragging around the ball without anyone getting clean possession for the opening moments. The first clean possession took it into attack for the Swans, but it was dealt with well by the Hawthorn defence. Coming out of defence was less successful, with Hannebury intercepting a kick out on the wing, kicking quickly to Goodes, just too far out, but able to kick it out in front of a running Ginger Rohan, who marked and goaled.
The ball was quickly back in the Sydney forward line again where Kurt Tippet had got front position on Josh Gibson. Huge man that he is, Tippet is harder to move than Ray Martin’s hair and Gibson could only chop at his arm (a rule I thought umpires had all but forgotten a couple of years ago) and give away a free kick. Tippet kicked accurately and the Swans had a fast start.
There was a fair bit of niggle early too. Benn McGlynn and Jordan Lewis were both predictably in the centre of it, but there was plenty happening all over the ground. With plenty of feeling in the game, the attack on the ball was fierce and a number of players fumbled balls just as they had a chance to clear congestion. Jarred McVeigh was guilty of a few throughout the first half in particular. The niggling boiled over into a little bit of melee. If Cindy from the movie, Commando, was watching, she would have said, “These guys eat too much red meat.” As with most AFL melees it was all posturing and jumper pulling so once everyone had got the nonsense out of their system, the game was able to restart with a reversed free kick that Sydney had given away for their poor discipline and they were lucky the kicker (Lewis I think) didn’t take the opportunity to kick the Hawks’ first goal.
Sydney lost some of their impetus from here and the game became quite evenly poised, with the Hawks having a lot of the ball and sending it inside 50 frequently with little return. Rioli looked the most dangerous and effective of the Hawks players, but he didn’t get too many opportunities close to goals in this quarter. For the most part, the ball was bombed long and well dealt with by the Swans defence (although they were also aided by poor goal kicking by the Hawks forwards when they did get a chance).
With little warning Sydney snuck another couple of quick goals. First Shiels gave away a 50m penalty for a late head-high spoil (wonder which Hawthorn senior players he’s been watching) on McGlynn, who converted. Soon after, a high kick into the forward line was brought to ground by Tippet, who fought on at ground level, kicking a ball that squirted through a pack in front of Ginger Rohan. Rohan dribbled the ball across the face of goal where Goodes (who was proving my assumption that he was past it to be quite wrong this game) was on hand to kick it through.
At this point I was still waiting for the Hawthorn to come back strongly. They had kicked a number of behinds but just weren’t converting, while the Swans had been extremely efficient in their attacks. Franklin copped a high tackle and Tippet was given advantage as the big Swan swooped (AFL commentators would be wetting themselves over a pun like that) on the loose ball and snapped truly from about 30 metres.
The first quarter ended with the Swans leading by a touch under five goals and the commentary team babbling about how many decades it had been since the last time Hawthorn had not scored a goal in the first quarter. What they should have been talking about was the sheer intensity of that quarter. Players on both sides were cracking in with aggression bordering on fury and time on the ball was almost unheard of. The number of kicks and handpasses that were intercepted was quite notable due to the speed the game was played at. I’m actually surprised more teams don’t try to play this way against the Hawks. An easy interpretation would be to say the Swans came out harder and wanted it more, but that would be pretty unfair on the Hawks’ players who were giving just as good as they got in the contests. The score didn’t reflect the balance of play and with more efficient use of the ball going forward and greater accuracy in front of goal, it could have been quite an even scoreline.
The second quarter had a bit of everything. It was Sam Reid’s turn to have the fumbles a little. The gangly utility was lucky when one of these was picked up by an opponent and shot into the arms of Jack Gunston, who hit the post from his set shot.
A run down tackle by Ginger Rohan (on Breust I think), started an impressive chain of kicks that resulted in McGlynn running into an open goal at the other end. Incidentally I think being run down by a ginger should actually be worth 2 free kicks or a 50m penalty, since the player trying to evade the ginger already has an advantage- humans are biologically programmed to avoid gingers.
Another fumble by McVeigh gave the ball to Isaac Smith who hit the post from a tight angle. I think at this point the hawks had kicked 0.6 or something. Finally Breust broke their duck (sounds painful or at least something I should talk to the RSPCA about), taking an almost uncontested mark inside 50, even though there were a few defenders who I thought might have been close enough to at least cause him some more pressure.
The pace of the game was still really fast. Even under extreme pressure, both teams were running with the ball and attempting to use high difficulty kicks and handpasses. Some of the time it would break down. In fact a number of the goals scored up to this point and throughout the rest of the game came from turnovers. You couldn’t be critical of the strategy (at least not to Longmire or Clarkson’s face) as one of the reasons they scored so many on the turnover was because of how aggressive and daring they were once they turned it over.
Breust ran hard out of defence and squared it up to Rioli with a kick that had to be perfect. Rioli in turn found Shoenmakers amidst a sea (or flock) of Swans just inside 50. Schoenmakers kicked it perfectly from long range to give the Hawks their second.
Rioli was brilliant, especially during this quarter. Almost every touch was class and to the advantage of his team. If Bruce Mcavaney was commentating, he would probably had had to go for a cold shower by now. Another mistake coming out of defence saw the ball kicked long back into the goal square. For once the Swans defenders didn’t deal with it that well (it was very close to the line and I had expected one off them to punch it through. Instead, both flew against Jarryd’s rough head, without getting a decent spoil on the ball, which dropped to Ceglar who was the only man still standing. Suddenly the Hawks were scoring with as little difficulty as Austin Powers.
By contrast the Swans looked to be struggling with the pressure. Reid fumbled again. Tippet took a great defensive mark but then gave off a hospital handpass to a player with no space. Moments later, Tippet was run down by Rioli just at the edge of the 50. Next it was Teddy Richards’ turn to give away a free kick inside 50 for a throw.
They got off lightly for this string of errors though, with only a Langford goal as their major punishment. The umpiring on prior opportunity had suddenly become red hot too; with a number of holding the ball calls made in the quarter, some pretty tough, but if you don’t dry hump the ground when four dudes are sitting on you, the umpire doesn’t think you are trying to get rid of it.
Having weathered the storm (water of a swan’s back maybe), Sydney punched back late. Jetta kicked long to the square where Reid was in best position but unable to mark. That was pretty much his last error and he made up for it almost immediately, taking a big pack mark the next time the ball came in and kicking a goal to see the Swans go in at half time with a two goal lead.
In the second half the umpires quickly changed their mind on holding the ball and put their whistle away for half a dozen cases they would have called in the first half just- and that was just in the first few minutes. Sydney attacked hard in the first five minutes of the half, but made no inroads to goal. Lewis Jetta put in his entry for worst inside 50 ever, with a ball that skidded and bounced along the ground for 30 metres (but hey statisticians will count it as being just as useful as the one he kicked 50 metres to Sam Reid in the goal square earlier).
Matthew Richardson commented that the half had started well for Sydney because they had had the last 5 inside 50s, despite the fact they had not scored a single goal. You would think, having watched the trend of the game, he would have realise that inside 50s were not telling much a story with so many goals being scored from turnovers in the opposition’s forward 50, but no one ever accused Richo of being a deep thinker. Next minute the ball was in the Hawks forwards line, too.
Sydney were guilty of a few lazy kick outs in the second half, missing 20m targets, but when the ball fell to the Rough Head, right in front, he hooked it wide.
Even so. A Hawthorn comeback seemed as inevitable as Taylor Swift writing a whiney song the next time she breaks up with someone. Ginger Rohan fell over at a crucial time to allow his opponent, Suckling time (note the importance of commas here). Suckling steadied and found Gunston near the 50 and the Hawk forward made no mistake. Soon after, Hawthorn would indeed level the scores. Puopolo picked up a spillage and avoided tacklers coming at him long enough to draw more defenders from their players. He then handballed across the Schoenmakers to kick it through from the top of the square (has anyone else noticed ‘the square’ is a rectangle, not a square?) and the scores were tied.
From here I firmly expected the Hawks to draw away, but Tippet won another free kick as he went for a mark and McGlynn played on with the advantage. A Hawthorn defender dived across and stopped the ball on the line only for Reid to follow in for the easiest of tap-ins.
Scores were level again after a shocking kick from Kennedy cleared his leading player (it was only a 20m pass at that) and fell in Mitchell’s lap. He hit up Hill (see what I did there?) who kicked it over the back of the pack for Puopolo to run onto and into the open goal.
The Hawks finally hit the lead after Rioli leapt higher than I would have given him credit for to mark and kick his first for the night. Even though he hadn’t kicked a goal before this point, he had set up a number of others and been involved in other scoring chances so for my money he was one of the most influential players on the ground.
The Hawks went into three quarter time with a lead of four points after another fascinating quarter. It was interesting to see the shift in the interpretation of high tackles for players ducking, which I thought the umpires were getting about right. Maybe John Longmire agreed as I saw him shouting into his phone at one point and while I couldn’t hear him, reading his lips, it looked like he used the words, ‘duck’ and ‘ducking’ quite a few times.
The final quarter started with some signs of fatigue and pressure starting to show. A number of usually reliable players missed targets early in the quarter. One such mistake by the Swans resulted in a chain of Hawthorn possessions that culminated in another Rioli mark and goal. With a two goal lead (or perhaps as a result of being well-held by either Grundy or Richards for most of the night) the Rough Head bobbed up playing as an extra man in defence to make it even harder for the Swans to mount any sort of comeback.
But that wouldn’t stop the Swans doing just that. A slick handball from Hannebury on the ground, found McVeigh running towards goal and he bounced it through from outside 50. The Hawks had a quick chance to respond when Gunston marked a Rioli kick well in range, but again hit the post.
Consecutive strong contested marks to Goodes and McVeigh saw the latter kick his second goal to reduce the deficit to a point (a shame Joe Hockey can’t do the same to budget deficit so easily). The Swans regained the lead with an impressive goal that started in defence with Benn McGlynn and again involving Jarred McVeigh (I’m starting to feel silly for highlighting his fumbles earlier) taking another important mark on the forward line. He turned and quickly put a kick out in front of Parker who was streaming towards goal and ran onto the kick without breaking stride.
The Swans were back in front, but the Hawks weren’t done either. Burgoyne burst out of a stoppage at half back and drilled a pass to Breust. I had all but pencilled this in as a goal, but the normally reliable Hawk missed a relatively easy set shot. Still the Hawks were pushing harder than the mining lobby when the Resources Tax was first announced. The final minutes were mainly played in their forward half with only a few desperate acts of defence and some skill errors under pressure stopping them forcing a final lead change.
Sydney walked (or staggered) away with the points but from a neutral point of view, I would have said either team would have been worthy winners in a game that, much to my surprise, actually lived up to its billing. A lot of the focus after the game was on the ineffectiveness of the tall forwards in the game, with neither Roughhead nor Franklin kicking a goal. Once again statistics lie a little (I know I’ve got to stop banging on about this) as it should be noted that Tippet kicked two and was crucial to at least two others. Meanwhile neither Roughhead nor Franklin received much decent service from their midfield, which makes it hard when you are playing a team with a strong defence.
BOG was an interesting dilemma. I felt Rioli and Hannebury were best for their respective sides. Rioli played crucial roles in a lot of his sides scoring opportunities and was vital in the first half when the Swans’ defence was looking so solid. Mitchell had a fair bit of the ball, without being particularly damaging with it. For the Swans, Hannebury was a monster, ripping the ball out of packs and being the driving force for his team. In the end I couldn’t split them, so they get to share the highly prestigious honour of being named my Best on Ground.
At face value, Frawley’s effort on Franklin was very good, but he was not actually called to do that much as, even when they were in front, Sydney actually didn’t have a huge amount of the ball and most of their attacks went through Tippet. In light of this, I couldn’t say Frawley had more of an impact than the other two.
The Snickers Award went to a fired up Ben McGlynn who was quite feisty in the first half, although any number of players from both sides could have easily been recipients. The second half was surprisingly free of all the theatrics, as teams settled down to play the actual game.