AFL Grand Final: Missed Opportunity

It has now been over a month since the 2012 AFL Grand Final. For the Swans there were great celebrations and many tributes paid to the club and its players who brought the Flag back to the Harbour City. And rightfully so. From a Hawthorn point of view we are left to ponder what might have been. What could have been. As honourable a loss as the Grand Final was, as strong as their fighting spirit was and as proud as I was of the boys after that final siren, it was indeed a missed opportunity. And it hurts. As brutal as the Home and Away season is, finishing on top of the ladder at the end of it sadly counts for nought if you’re not holding up the cup on Grand Final day. It will go down as a wasted season. That is the brutal reality.

Leading into the game I was far too nervous. Too tense. The Preliminary final worried me. We had so much of the ball yet only just fell over the line in that one. And the crows? As good as they were how did we let them hit so many targets coming out of our forward-line and through the middle? Tippett and Walker once again showed up our undersized defence but if it’s coming in so easily what chance did Shoey or Gibson have? I wanted to put it down to a bad one. A one off. And I knew what we were capable of. But geez I was nervous. Much more nervous than in 2008. Back then I can remember being slightly confident for some reason. Young up and comers in red hot form against a tiring Geelong. Fast forward four years and the Hawks were now favourites at generous odds.

To be honest the game is a bit of a blur to me as I have not rewatched the game and nor do I intend to. I can remember feeling quite good at quarter time. After a nervous start the Hawks had put four on the board and had a nice little break. Buddy had plenty of it and had put one through from long range. But the Swans were never going to lie down. Nick Malceski’s snap from the pocket for the Swans first goal made sure of that (how did that one go in?). In the second Sydney surge and we have no answers. I remember staying confident but it was false bravado. We are goalless for the quarter and go in at half time with a lot of work to do. It’s too much for me. I need to go outside and have a kick. The time honoured kick to kick on Grand Final day is one of my favourites. That’s reason enough to stick with a day Grand Final right there. It gives me the chance to regather my thoughts and kick out a few nerves before the second half begins. And it doesn’t begin well. The Swans are once again in control. We battle hard but Sydney are too good. Too disciplined. Josh Kennedy has a snap. It will be a long way back if he nails it. It just clips the post and the Hawks are alive. The comeback is on as Hale goals and Buddy fires up and boots two, one of them from about 65 out. Mitchell wins it in the centre and dishes off to Smith who nails it from outside 50. We’ve hit the front! How did that happen? It is short lived though as McVeigh wins a 50 metre penalty and slots one. But we are back. Three quarter time comes and it’s anyone’s game. I have only hope to cling to now.

The last quarter is such a blur to me now. I can remember kicking the first two goals and being happy but far from content. I can remember Buddy threatening to put the Swans away but not quite being able to do so. I can remember Gunston needing to convert when we are 7 points down. He hits the post, surely one of only a few sets shots he’s missed all year. I can remember Sewell, so brilliant all day, having two flying shots at the goals, neither of them really looking like going in. I can remember Clinton Young going to ground at a vital stage, allowing his opponent to waltz into goal. And of course I remember Malceski snapping the match sealing goal with a minute or so left. I can try to be gracious and magnanimous all I like, but at that moment in time I am devastated. I don’t really care if it was a classic game. I console myself by feeling great pride in my team. They gave it all they had and I can only imagine how devastated they are. I also acknowledge that Sydney really are a great club. Jude Bolton, Mummy, Jarrod McVeigh, who could begrudge those players a premiership? If you had to lose to a club in a Grand Final, you could do much worse than lose to these guys. Had it been Collingwood or Geelong I don’t know if I would be physically capable of writing this piece.

So where does that leave Hawthorn? Certainly they will be expected to contend again next year. But who knows? Things could have been so different. There are so many factors that go into even reaching a Grand Final and the harsh truth is that we probably won’t get a better chance than 2012. We probably won’t have as good a run with injuries again next year. The competition probably won’t be as even again next year. And from first look our fixture looks as difficult as it’s ever been (don’t get me started on that one). Certainly Young will be missed (or that one either!). Can Brian Lake prove a decent pick up? If he stays fit I believe so. That is the great uncertainty of football. It is a fine line between winning a flag and wondering what went wrong. Clarkson and his team have a lot of work to do between now and next season. Hopefully, with hard work and a bit of luck, we will get another chance on the final day.


  1. Every loss from Hawthorn is deserved. Sincerely, bitter Cats Man

  2. I’m with cookie I’m afraid. The words “that’s what I’m talking about” still burn…..I agree about your Sydney comment though- they go against my rule of not liking sporting teams from NSW (especially cricket)

  3. You’ve just summed up every thought, feeling and conversation i’ve had about the game for the last month Mike. I don’t think the pain of a lost GF we should of won will ever go away. Great writing.

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