2015 Grand Final – West Coast v Hawthorn: Riffin’, ruminating and, hell yeah, raisin’ the roof, rejoicing

Too old, too slow … that’s what people say. But to quote Ms Swift, the mighty Hawks “can’t stop, won’t stop moving, it’s like they got this music in their game and it’s gonna be alright.”


We all know that this season the Hawks have been humbled. Oh boy, have we been humbled. By the Eagles only a few weeks ago. By Port earlier this year. But not on the last Saturday of the 2015 Premiership season. On that day the Hawks would be the Light.


Everyone will have a different moment when they reckon the game was won (or lost). Some will even venture that the game hung in the balance until about midway through the third. Maybe it did. Certainly, in my anxious, dizzy state I was still checking the clock until late in the last. Nervously glancing across to that humongous screen affixed between the Olympic and Southern stand, calculating whether the Eagles could suddenly produce nine goals straight in the 14 minutes left.


While at the game I had thought that the Eagles had found some momentum midway through the second and then for the first ten minutes after half time. Watching the replay I got a better sense of that period. All the Eagles had done during that time was get enough of the ball and control of the play to look like they stood a chance. The threat was never seriously executed.


I can now identify, with hindsight and in a far more relaxed state, the exact moment the Hawks had this one in the bag. It was a big moment. In the second. It came a couple of minutes before Hurn, the Eagles captain, fluffed an absolute sitter of a chance to lift his team. This was his moment. The captain rallying his squadron. Through action. Don’t think, do.


Kennedy had marked the ball out on the flank. Kennedy was within range (and is, you know, the Coleman medalist). Hurn called to Kennedy and Kennedy obliged (because, presumably, Kennedy was not as confident as you would expect the leading goal kicker in the competition to be). Hurn was thirty metres out, dead in front, at the City end. He had to kick that goal. As Carey said in his commentary, this would give the Eagles some much needed confidence. With all the time in the world, he moved in, gave himself plenty of room and with his right foot kicked the ball. The ball sailed, as if with a magnet of foreboding, to the left side of the left goal post. This took the Eagles score to 1.6 against the Hawks 6.1.


The game was sealed with the Hawks first goal of the second quarter. I know that now. I couldn’t appreciate how important it was then. Inside the first minute, Duryea took possession (after a poor kick out of defence by the Eagles) and passed the ball to Smith in the centre. He handpassed to Birch running past. With plenty of time he sent it down the flank to Cyril (more about his game later). Junior saw Hodge in the pocket and chipped it to him. Schofield read the play and seemed to out-manoeuvre Hodge, the ball spilling back towards the boundary line. Puopolo crumbed the ball on the line, almost lost his neck as Schofield tackled and handpassed back to Hodge.


Hodge was wedged in tight in the pocket. In that space, in that moment he made a decision. He was not reckless in his decision making and action. The King of Colac (and Hawthorn, surely) took the ball, assessed his options and decided to go for goal.


Cool headed Luke slotted the goal, with a banana kick. He let the ball fall at his foot at a 45 degree angle while the pistons in his mighty left leg pumped the very sinews of his muscles, allowing that power, that force to drive down deep into his left foot at the same time as the leg took its clean and crisp rise. His boot gripped the ball on impact. The kick sent the missile, with centimetre specific clarity, to the target Hodge’s terminator mind has set when he decided to go for goal about 0.111111 seconds ago.


“Hodge has done it from nowhere,” screamed Bruce and we were up off our seats as if the second (or third) coming had arrived. I almost fainted I was so dizzy. Did that happen? Was it real? Surely the third umpire review would be called. The depth of my disbelief wrestled with the height of my awe. It was, to get all British on proceedings, a most remarkable goal. A defining goal. Hodge gave a Braveheart salute to the Hawks army behind the fence, thanked Pup then calmly moved to start the next passage of play. I suspect, the Eagles, then and there, surely knew the game was not theirs to win.


Minutes later Hurn missed his “Captain’s response” goal. Who stood the mark? Hodge.


There were other moments of course. Many. Like a bunch. The second Hawks signature moment was when Cyril ran down Hutchings. This play exemplified the hunger that fuelled Rioli and Rioli’s hunger fuelled the Hawks. Breust had tried to centre the play from the left forward pocket, kicking across the field looking for Rioli. Cyril was sandwiched between two Eagles defenders. He fell to the ground and the Eagles took the ball away. Now, if this was any other player that would be the end of that. But it was Cyril. He jumped up and took off after the ball. He just did. Maybe he was embarrassed getting sandwiched. In another scenario Cyril could quite easily have timed the crunch so the Eagles sandwiched each other and fell to the ground while Cyril cleaned up. It’s an attractive thought (and not beyond Junior). What he did do makes that imagined play look pedestrian.


McGovern had cleared the ball a good 15 metres to Hutchings who inexplicably strolled (yes, strolled) up the flank while bouncing the ball as he looked for an option. From the second level of the Southern Stand we had front row seats and we were given an Einstein lesson in time and motion. Time is relative, let’s just put it that way.


Hutchings was the only person at the G who didn’t know Rioli was bearing down on him like a tiger hunting a gazelle. Like a parallel dimension consuming a planet. By the time he made his feeble attempt at a handpass Cyril had wrapped him up and was bringing him to his knees. It was a pure tackle. Hutchings got hutched. Yes, I’m not above the low art pun.


From AFL clubs to U11s this footage will be shown, probably until the end of time, to teach aspiring players the ‘Rioli tackle’. The right stuff. The tackle was that impressive that even though the Hawks quickly scored another goal as a result, Channel 7 chose to replay the tackle rather than the goal. And one of the commentators quipped, “It’s not what Rioli does with the footy it’s what he does without it”. At this moment the Southern Stand got together, voted and agreed that Rioli would be the Norm Smith medalist. And we belted out this simple refrain, “Oh Cyril, I would do anything just to be like him”.


The Eagles could and should have made more of the first ten minutes in the third. They didn’t. They bungled things. They bungled bungles. I’m talking to you Shuey and Darling. When your best players make such fundamental mistakes your goose is cooked and ready for carving. These poor decisions and fumbles will play on a continuous loop for them for a long, long time. And they will be reminded of it, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, in bars, at barbeques and on the park. Like an inverted Ode: “The error shall weary them.”


When Frawley outplayed Kennedy yet again (Frawley played a cracker) and kicked long to the Hawks forward line for Gunners to mark unopposed in a pack (and goal) the Eagles Premiership quarter comeback was pretty much snuffed out. The Hawks were still 31 points ahead.


Then the Hawks took control. This is how. It’s called the Intercept. Remember the Scarlett toe poke. The Intercept is that moment. So, there was 7.40 left on the clock in the third. The Eagles had given it their all. The Hawks lead however was the same as it was at the main break. If it is true that we lead lives of quiet desperation then this was the moment we exhorted the game, show me a hero. Enter Rioli stage right. (Excuse my use of the sloppy theatrical device. To tell the truth I don’t know where Rioli came from. Maybe he just is).


Burgoyne cleared the ball from a congested pack to Mitch (I could write another piece just about his game and his standing in footy lore. He was brilliant). Sammy took the pigskin and kicked the stuffing out of it. From the Hawks backline to just forward of centre. Eagles’ defenders punched the ball away. Another Eagles player cleaned up and handpassed to Ellis. The ball doesn’t get to him. It only had to travel a metre or two. Reading the play at a speed slightly faster than real time, Rioli intercepts. He has possession for one second before he handpasses to Breust running through. The Eagles are caught wrong-footed, running the wrong way and I suspect, hypnotised. The play (as great plays should) is completed by Puopolo’s stunning running kick to Gunners. The goal extends the Hawks lead to 37 points and the Eagles do not recover. They do not recover from the Intercept.


Is it hyperbolic to suggest that this great Hawks win, which completes the mighty three-peat, is this era’s “City set on a Hill”? This era needs its lamp, its light. Hawthorn, winning three premierships in a row, is footy’s lamp. The Hawks have let their light shine; that the competition may see the Hawks good works and the game will rise above the congestion and defensive idolatry. Pay heed to the saviour, Clarko, disciples Hodgey, Mitch, Birch, Lewis, Roughy and Junior and all other Hawks acolytes. Hearken back to their exploits, their challenges overcome and their success. Rejoice; go all trembly, shout it out gloriously, let your lightness loose. The City set on a Hill may cast a long shadow but look to its light and it shall guide thee out of the darkness and one day you too shall experience such success. If only you believe.


About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day


  1. Matt Quartermaine says

    Love your passion Ricky, but we may have to bring in an exorcist.

  2. Trucker Slim says

    Thanks Matt, more importantly, I reckon you would benefit from drinking the blessed Hawks water.

    This is just a reminder to Hawkers that this article is here to devour (it’s Hawksporn!) and to non-Hawkers (do they exist?) this might be a refuge from Hawks Fatigue Syndrome … probably not!

  3. Paul Campbell says

    Hi Rick,

    Great write up, loved your description of Hodgey’s goal. Best I’ve seen live – the occasion, the moment, and it was at my end!

    Is it possible to have seen the best goal, best take-down tackle and best handball-intercept all in the one Grand final? Answer: Yes.

    Happy team and lucky supporters. These are the good old days.


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