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Match Of The Day: Double the finals fun for top four Hawks

Hawthorn youngster Harry Morrison, who had a big final quarter, goals to put his side within two points of the Swans. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match Of The Day: Double the finals fun for top four Hawks

Rohan Connolly    

You knew they weren’t out of it even as they slipped more than three goals in arrears. You knew they were still every chance when they still trailed late in the final term. And you knew once they hit the front they were going to do it again.

Has there ever been a team which keeps its cool in the close ones, not to mention wins as many of them, as well as Hawthorn?

The stakes this time were higher than usual, a finals double chance. The opponent, in Sydney, another team with plenty of experience in the clutch moments. But the result was just the same, Hawthorn by not a lot, but enough.

In the last three seasons alone, even post their premiership years, the Hawks have won 12 and drawn another of 15 games decided by a goal or less.

It meant that when Ricky Henderson nailed a shot from outside 50 metres, giving the Hawks the lead in this game for the first time since the second minute of the second quarter, and with still more than eight minutes to play, they were going to be almost impossible to stop.

It was hardly a black mark against a Sydney side which just a little more steadiness near goal, having led for the vast bulk of the game even without a critical pair of stars in Lance Franklin and Luke Parker, both late withdrawals.

But it was their opponent which won the biggest moments. And which will go into yet another September campaign with the buffer of either a second chance or an automatic progression to a preliminary final. And Sydney which will have to do it the hard way.

There was a fair argument the most important moment of the early going in this game came not in the first quarter, but 90 minutes before the start when the team sheets were released and the names Franklin and Parker were missing from Sydney’s.

But it certainly didn’t faze the Swans once the action got underway in greasy and difficult conditions, clean ball-handling a rarity in the first term. It took until the 11th minute, but Isaac Heeney posted the home side’s first from a free kick, and Tom Papley another from a clever snap 17 minutes in.

No-one really expected the Hawks to go quietly, though, and of course, they didn’t. Hawthorn proceeded to dominate the next 15 minutes, at one stage racking up seven of eight inside 50s.

And as usual, the Hawks were ready to pounce on any mistakes, as demonstrated when Sydney defender Aliir Aliir dropped a sitter of a mark and James Worpel swooped on the spills to get his side on the board.

And the Hawks had hit the front by the time Luke Breust casually shrugged two tackles to slip a delicate pass to Ricky Henderson, who duly converted. The Swans were tackling fiercely and winning plenty of ball, but Hawthorn was using its share with just a little more precision.

That would change dramatically come the second term, however, as Sydney began to make more of its opportunities, and as George Hewett, rapidly become one of the game’s premier “run-with” players, continued to keep the Hawks’ possession machine Tom Mitchell quiet.

Now it was the Hawks making too many errors. Blake Hardwick gave away a free kick to Heeney, who goalled. Then Teia Miles turned one over coming out of the back-pocket to let Keiren Jack in for another.

Ollie Florent marked strongly in front of Worpel and kicked Sydney’s third unanswered goal of the quarter. And that became four when skipper Josh Kennedy, already having plenty of impact, burst clear from a boundary throw-in and bounced one home from outside 50 metres.

By this stage, the Swans had racked up 50 more disposals than Hawthorn for the term, and had trebled the Hawks’ forward entries for the same period. Paul Puopolo’s response from a free kick came as Hawthorn needed a goal as desperately as at any time during the season.

But the Hawthorn which emerged from the rooms for the second half had a different look about it. Zippier, more intent on keeping the ball moving to avoid the Sydney strangulation. And it was a strategy which bore fruit.

From the moment Jarman Impey dashed off half-back through the centre and almost goalled, you knew the Hawks were about to surge. Mitchell, trying to get himself going with a stint forward, began to win plenty of the ball, doubling his previous possession tally in the third term.

Ryan Schoenmakers bobbed up with the first goal, and after another 10 minutes or so of arm wrestle, the Hawks booted two in a couple of minutes, Jack Gunston snapping one, Puopolo latching on to a Jarryd Roughead handball to put his side within a point.

Now Sydney needed a steadier. And found it. Two, in fact, via Harry Cunningham, doing a superb job on Hawk runner Isaac Smith, then Papley. But that was merely the cue for another timely Gunston reply.

And thus the final term continued in the same fashion. Tom McCartin, the youngest player on the ground, kept his head to give the Swans a 12-point break. But that had been erased within three minutes, Puopolo bouncing through a ripper from the tightest of angles, and a previously subdued skipper Roughead levelling the scores.

Callum Sinclair stopped the flow for Sydney from a questionable free kick. But the Hawks’ biggest guns, sensing the moment once again, were rising to it, Shaun Burgoyne bobbing up with important touches, Liam Shiels with 10 last-term disposals.

And these days, the younger Hawks are more than capable of jumping on board as well. Harry Morrison certainly did. In a tremendous final term, he was responsible for one of what may well end up one of the biggest moments of Hawthorn’s season, stripping the ball from a surging Swan defender, calmly picking up the spills and putting his team within two points.

Henderson’s long bomb from 52 metres came after the Hawks had calmly worked the ball around to find the best scoring option. And it was game over when Roughead weighted beautifully a long kick to the goal square just in time to find a diving Breust.

At 11 points the difference, with two minutes 41 seconds left to play, these days you’d still give most trailing teams some sort of chance. Just not against a team which has made an artform of winning the close ones. And, of course, the ones that really matter.

SYDNEY 2.3 6.7 8.8, 10.14 (74)
HAWTHORN 2.4 3.6 7.8, 12.11 (83)
GOALS – Sydney: Heeney 2, Papley 2, McCartin, Jack, Kennedy, Florent, Cunningham, Sinclair. Hawthorn: Puopolo 3, Gunston 2, Henderson 2, Schoenmakers, Worpel, Breust, Roughead, Morrison .
BEST – Sydney: Cunningham, Hewett, Lloyd, Grundy, Kennedy, Heeney. Hawthorn: Impey, Shiels, Morrison, Worpel, McEvoy, Burgoyne.
CROWD: 39,660 at the SCG.

  1. Roco. Thanks for the quality writing and the weekly wrap and round previews with your cohort Fviney (not a typo). May yours be the future of journalism as the traditional forms wither and fade.

    No idea how the Hawks managed top 4 this year, really looking forward to hearing yours and Mark’s prognostications on our chances on the Podcast (I know you live stream it but I don’t use the Facebook). I would like your thoughts on who should come back in for the Hawks? Sicily would be a lock if he’s fit – Clarke said he sees the specialist this week. Is Birchall going to be available? Would we risk playing Birchall? Match fitness is a concern, he’s missed a massive chunk of football. I haven’t heard much about Birch, so I’m guessing he won’t be considered, but you’d love him out there in September. I assume Frawley comes back from his back. If any of those three return who comes out?

    Also, which Conor will be the best Hawk – Nash or Glass?

    On a musical side note – check out The Hold Steady, a very tasty offering out of Minneapolis.

  2. Rohan Connolly

    Thanks Dave, much appreciated. I think you can pretty much count Birchall out, would have had to have played before now I reckon, and their backline looks really settled at the moment, anyway. That said, Sicily is a must and probably Frawley, particularly should they run into West Coast. If Sicily and Frawley come back in, would be Mirra and Schoenmakers who make way I would have thought. Cheers, Rohan.

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