AFL Grand Final: Fearless – Like Highlander, there can be only one!


As the dust settled from last weekend, the Hawks had earned the right to conquer its own demons from the previous Grand Final. Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, once the Swans had started collecting junk time goals, Fremantle dared to dream, soaking in the energies coming from the purple army that filled Pattersons Stadium. Finally, the football club once synonymous with flaky was now a force. The Dockers’ faithful started the migratory patterns east towards the code’s September mecca, the MCG. Would it be the start of a Purple Reign?

As the drums rolled out Fremantle’s entry onto the MCG, “Freo Heave Ho”, footy’s equivalent of a rock n roll sea shanty, blared out and the purple and white army made an impressive roar of approval, worthy of its share of the crowd. Football supporters crave respect and hope when things aren’t going well and now Fremantle had both. Once regarded by the WA footy fraternity as a niche club, the Dockers under Ross Lyon were to be feared in a manner similar to the All Blacks in rugby union.

The Hawks had defied many pundits’ predictions of doom to show that they were not going to be intimidated. Any lingering psychological scars from the last few finals’ campaigns and the Kennett Curse were banished. Collectively Hawthorn had one obstacle left on the road to the Holy Grail. Any talk of Buddy in 2014 was merely small talk, not even a distraction. He would take his place today, fit to do whatever was asked of him. That was all that mattered to the Brown and Gold faithful.

As the game started it became apparent that the Hawks were not nervous, had settled well and the same could not be said for Fremantle. Indeed the road to Hawk redemption held no fears, arguably reinforced by a close Preliminary Final win.

The Dockers, however, were nervous. The sense of occasion may have got to them, as the previous largest crowd they had played in front of was @60000 at ANZ Stadium. There was nowhere to hide on the grand stage. Normally polished performers such as Nat Fyfe and Frodo Ballantyne were missing goals. To get to half time with only 1.6 was an indictment on the collective mindset and not even the skipper Pavlich was immune. Only Aaron Sandilands and Ryan Crowley were flying the purple flag.

As the main break started, the Hawks were 5.5 to 1.6 and the Dockers were in need of a spark. Maybe a timely reminder from Mark Seymour and the Hunters and Collectors was it. Maybe there was still time to get the holy grail. Personally that song grates on me, but the Dockers were in need of something special. Motivation was required as the game was in danger of blowing out.

Enter Matthew Pavlich and David Mundy. The Dockers’ leaders helped whittle the lead down to 3pts by the 13 minute mark of the 3rd qtr and it was game on! Names such as Barlow, Hill, Fyfe became more prominent. Jack Gunston’s 4th goal helped restore some Hawk order and probably put him on the way to the Norm Smith Medal. Four goals was a stellar contribution on a day where the winds played havoc on scoring opportunities. ¾ time saw the Hawks lead by 10 points.

Isaac Smith’s beautiful long bomb from the forward 50 arc probably was the sealer. If not, Luke Bruest’s timely rover’s snap must’ve been it. Whilst the Dockers came to play after half time, it wasn’t to be. Instead the deep burn of missed opportunities would haunt the Fremantle over summer and into 2014. Brian Lake, ex-Bulldog, surged past Gunston for the Norm Smith, having been allowed by Fremantle to play the game on his own terms as an exceptionally good reader of the play with an attacking mindset. Exactly the reason he was recruited to the Hawks. Hawthorn had lived up to expectations of their faithful, of Clarko, of Jeff and of the players. In 2014 could they get there again? Fremantle will be far better for the experience. Watchout!

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