AFL Grand Final – Sydney v Hawthorn: Everything is turning to Gold – With the ‘Hand of Rioli’


It will be recalled Hawthorn only qualified for the 2014 Grand Final after a narrow 3-point escape from Port Adelaide. Our fourth consecutive Preliminary final decided by under a kick. I needed the defibrillator.


A Hodge smother and tackle saved our hides. You can never have enough Hodge. Still, Port had made it back to 50, with Lake in Monfries’ clutches and an umpire running in to make a decision. If ever I was going to pop my clogs on an umpire’s call, this was it.


‘Ball Up’. Siren. We were in it.


Over the next week the media rather exhaustively reported how much more impressive the Swans were in the respective Preliminary Finals (which they were) and how they had a guy named Franklin who was certainty for Norm Smith (which he wasn’t). Comparatively, we seemed to have fallen arse-backwards into this. I tend to be lightly eternal-pessimist, expecting things to turn out worse than hoped for – like the Scottish referendum or ‘the Bachelor’. To play the Swans again, with Franklin on their team and they as hot favorites, put a monkey of doom, on a unicycle on my back.


Another troubling point was selection. On Thursday evening we knew Cyril Rioli and Ben McEvoy were ‘in’. I felt a tingling of optimism, or self-delusion, the kind that drives you into an abyss of self-recrimination afterwards. Grand Final history is littered with stories of teams playing unfit and underprepared players. Then again, Cyril is in a class of his own.


The day before the 2014 Grand Final I went to the parade, in sunshine, and felt more tingling. So much so, I needed to have a fireside chat with myself. We could make a fist of it, but don’t get your hopes up Pauly-Sue.


I was running late on Grand Final Day and missed pre-game drinks with a couple of friends. I went to my seat in the Ponsford stand, a solid gold section with the red and white McCoys over yonder.


Inextricably linked with this Grand Final were echoes of 2012. Maybe only I heard them, but I heard them. It was only 2 years ago, fresh enough in the memory.


Melbourne had turned on its well-known sunshine and as Tom Jones sang, I admired our green, green grass of home. Preliminaries were over, game on.


I liked our start. We had early possession, energy and industry. In the opening minutes Shiels brought Kennedy down in a tackle but missed his shot. A couple of minutes later, Kennedy nailed his and I heard an echo of his running goal in the 2012 decider.


Puopolo marked for our first, but Sydney were quickly back in attack. Lloyd’s kick was to the advantage of Franklin, who marked under some attention from Lake and goaled in front of the new admirers. I was deeply distrustful. Would he make this spin on his axis? Would the narrative be, there’s no ‘i’ in team, but there are five in individual brilliance? And was there any chance of an understated ‘hands in pockets’ goal celebration, in the manner of Frankie Lampard when he scored for City against Chelsea recently? I thought not.


Hawthorn’s response was a portent of things to come. Linking up well, Burgoynne found Breust, whose goal from 50 was beautifully struck. Then Grundy had his horror moment, punching when he should have marked. Hill swooped onto his left.  Good signs.


Roughead’s tackle on Hanneberry was like an NFL linebacker sacking the quarterback, the ball bounced to Gunston who goaled from point-blank. It was the moment – among zipping transition, early misses, dynamism from Cyril and a specie from Richards– I felt our manifest pressure had ‘em flustered. Tackles 22 to 7: Hawks way.


At the 28 minute mark, young Will Langford snapped over his shoulder to put us up by 20-points. I hollered at that one and caught another echo, albeit distinguishable by a reversal of fortunes. Will’s snapshot and the location reminded of Malceski’s oft-replayed sealer of 2012 and it happened right in front of Malceski.


I was cautious at the quarter time break. The margin was about the same as quarter-time in 2012. Two years ago, the second quarter was devastating. Would it be today? At least there was no treacherous wind today and the sun was here to stay.


Early in the 2nd, my jangling nerves were braced when Luke Breust won a head high free kick and triggered five consecutive goals in 11 sublime minutes for Hawthorn. We were swaying to a rhythm, something moving in them and nobody could stop the music!


The sequence will live long in the memory, Breust, Hale, Langford on the run, Hodge and Hodge again. I will fondly remember Cyril’s four or five efforts, to keep the ball in our forward line, and abet David Hale’s goal. Eventually, the Swans scrambled a kick away from Cyril, but straight to McEvoy and back it came; Suckling, Mitchell, Hale, goal. I was full of admiration for Cyril after a 13-weeks out[1]. He caused his chaos, with the virtuosity we love him for.


We had hit them hard and now went for the kill. With each goal, I urged for another. Around the same time, on the other side of the globe, a mic’d up Dallas Cowboy expressed my feelings while exhorting his team mates; “They are waiting for something to happen. While they’re waiting for something to happen, let’s keep putting it on their ass.”[2]


47-points up, I contemplated the highly unexpected question of ‘what is match winning lead, 10 minutes from half-time?’ The Swans refocused the mind, with a 2-goal revival. After the carnage, they had to come back and did through Goodes and Franklin. However, between these goals came a moment with the echo of greatest magnitude. Spangher chipped a pass to Lake, only for Brian to fall over. It gave Sydney’s Kieran Jack opportunity to pounce on the ball and run into an open goal. It was evocative of Clinton Young’s incredible teeter and tumble in dying minutes of 2012, when Jack – the same player! – seized a goal and momentum for his team.


This time, Jack tried a side step and gave Lake the second he needed to run him down. A goal saved is as good as a goal scored and momentum is paramount (as we learned in 2012). Even though a Franklin goal came half a minute later, it sort of didn’t matter. All avenues were through Route 23. Franklin was playing well but as Tim Lane put it in commentary, Hawthorn had steeled themselves for the performance of their collective lives’.


The final act of the half was Cyril’s. It was the ‘Hand of Rioli’ moment. His one handed interception of Tippet’s handball the actus reus in the chain of causation – tapping to McEvoy, setting off in a flash, getting it back and chipping to Roughead. In a handprint, his selection had paid for itself.


Half time: Hawthorn by 42-points. Later, neutrals told me it was won at half time, but there was too much of the game left. Belief had to be suspended. I knew the record half-time comeback in a Grand Final was 44-points, 44 years ago. One Grand Final day, somebody will let Collingwood off the hook.


We kicked the first two of the 3rd. Cyril’s instinctive smother of Tippet resulted in another for Roughead and then Gunston marked and goaled. The Swans responded through Jack and Franklin. They were better, but had made no inroads into the margin.


A 3-goal sequence from the Hawks, 15 minutes into the 3rd quarter, removed all doubt; it was our day in the sun.


The first of the 3 was a wonderful team goal: a clever little kick from Roughead on the deck, a tap from Mitchell and handball from Hodge. The penetrative kick wasn’t marked and there were enough Sydney defenders to clear it, but Cyril floated across the pack and the ball fell to ground. Puopolo gathered, gave to Suckling, whose snap shot elated the Hawthorn crowd.


In the second of the sequence, Franklin seemed to take his frustration out on Spangher, bundling him over and conceding a free kick downfield. Hill took possession and went on a scything run before passing to Roughead. When the roar abated, I caught the final echo. Not of 2012, but an old buddy. For all the heavily weighted good, he’s been known to do it.


23 minutes into the third, Langford kicked his freakish goal from the boundary line. I was sitting in the Ponsford stand, looking down on it. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, a kick along grass that vaulted 10-feet, ‘over’ the head of a defender on the goal line. I could see the ball taking its course from the first bounce.


The final quarter began with the Hawks still running and creating. Smith passed to Luke Bruest in the forward pocket and Breust kicked a fine goal from near the boundary. For the next few minutes, Sydney attacked and the game ebbed.


Liam Shiels found space and passed to Roughead. From 35-40, Roughy kicked number 4.


Goodes goaled and then a free kick to Franklin produced his 4th. Ironically, his best return in a Grand Final.


For the third time today, when the Swans kicked a couple the Hawks responded to snuff them out; Burgoyne goaled from beyond 50, Roughead brought up his 5th and Burgoyne had the finale, the Hawks 21st.


A 63 point win and back-to-back.


The cup was presented, Luke Hodge won the Norm Smith medal and the Hawks song played over and over.


I met friends to celebrate. We took in a little Tom Jones and relived our favorite highlights. When the sun went down, it was a beautiful evening. The players were presented and we drifted off to Richmond for a little bar hopping. After a while, I wanted to go home and share it with my children, even though they were sleeping. I had a Mark Knight, Herald-Sun poster that I stuck on some backing board and put in my daughter’s room, for her to see when she woke in the morning.


Before leaving, I took a last look at the ‘G. Already the Grand Final seemed long ago. I wondered if that was the best win in Hawthorn’s history? I think it had rare elements; avenging a nemesis in style, your brightest star leaving in a flash and, without further ado, playing ‘against you’, significant injuries and adversity over the season, the Cyril Rioli gamble ‘working’ and a smashing 63-point win as ‘underdog’ (when it often ends very badly for the underdog). Later, I heard it was the biggest win over a minor premier in all Grand Final history. Maybe, there’s no better than this.


Looking at the ‘G in darkness, feeling lucky, I thought of Cyril and Hodge, of Hodge kissing Franklin and Tom Jones singing ‘Kiss’.


I felt neither sympathy nor schadenfreude for Franklin, but wondered if he had a first doubt? Doubtful. He’ll be back. And while thinking of the ‘ex’, I thought of my favorite Tom, not Jones but ‘Petty’. An earworm dropped in, closing verse to one of his best, and it seemed appropriate in the circumstances.

“God bless this land,

God bless this Whisky,

I can’t trust love. It’s far too risky.

If (s)he marries into money, (s)he’s still

gonna miss me

and that’s good enough.

Gonna have to be good enough[3].”





[1] Recovering from a severe hamstring injury.

[2] Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, mic’d up in a match against New Orleans on 28 September 2014. Dallas won 38-17.

[3] ‘Good Enough’ (song), from ‘Mojo’ the 12th studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. (2010).

About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.


  1. Grant Fraser says

    “It was the ‘Hand of Rioli’ moment.” Paul we need to get some tee-shirts made – left footed lawyers who love Cyril.

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