AFL Grand Final-Sydney v Hawthorn: Sydney Manifestly Flawed

The garage wasn’t at capacity.  Nine men meant we were one short.  Only AJ, who was driving home, was wearing the sub-vest.  Only AJ wanted Sydney to win.


Everyone else wanted Hawthorn to win.  Sydney’s extra money had us irate.  We wanted unpredictability.  We wanted a close game.  We wanted an upset.  None of us expected the Hawks to win.


The Swans, we all agreed, would win by three or four goals.


Adam and I could’ve been at the grand final.  He’s an AFL gold member.  I remain silver, but the AFL sent an email on Tuesday, advertising grand final tickets to lesser members.  It left me aggrieved.  Had I gone to Melbourne I might’ve been there.


It didn’t matter.  The garage was fine.


I wore my 1989 Wandal premiership jumper, a Hawthorn strip with the VFL logo sewn onto the vest.  The Pole had decorated the garage with scarves, DVDs and t-shirts.  He wore his Hawthorn jumper, also carrying a VFL logo.


We were drinking.  I was on curfew, needing to be up at 4am.  It meant I had to try and drink responsibly.  I made sure everyone knew how to work the tap so they could pour their own beers.


The opening term was frantic.  Neither side had the edge.  Fifteen minutes in Lance Buddy Franklin put the Swans in front.  No one in the garage booed him.  We respect him too much.


It is his club we don’t like.


After Franklin’s goal, Hawthorn showed their intent.  They were powerful and aggressive.  The contest was over when Heath Grundy showed his courage to get under the ball then lost his nerve.


He spoiled instead of marking.


The ball rebounded from his left fist in front of Hawthorn’s goal.  It was an unfortunate error made worse when Josh Hill gathered the crumb and snapped a goal.


There were cheers and high-fives in the garage.  Someone said Grundy ducked his head.  I said no one talked to him and told him he was safe.


‘No Matt, he ducked his head,’ Adam said.  ‘You can never do that in a grand final.’


The Hawks were a goal up.


The Swans were pressured more than they have been all year.  It was Hawthorn smothering, not the Swans.  It was the Hawks closing the space, not the Swans.


It was Hawthorn harder at the man and the ball, not Sydney.

Dan Hannebery’s first quarter was probably the toughest of his career.  He was hammered every time he went near the ball.  It seemed the Hawks targeted him, but Hannebery was without space, almost set up to get tackled.


Roughead dumped him inside 50.  The spillage led to a Gunston goal.  Hannebery was slow to get up.  That tackle, if the Swans were unconvinced, set the tone for the rest of the match.  If you get the ball, you get annihilated.


Late in the quarter, Wil Langford put the Hawks 20-points up.  It was the biggest quarter time margin in a grand final since 2007.


At quarter time, beers were refreshed.  Hawthorn’s brutality had everyone stunned.  AJ was cursing the Hawks.  He became a target, like Hannebery, for our juvenile jibes.


We all expected Sydney to fight back.


The Pole couldn’t sit still.  He wasn’t drinking beer.  It was pear cider, an unusual drink for the garage.  No one said anything.


We munched on baked chicken wings and refilled our beers before the second term.


Sydney were incompetent.  They had nothing.  They were hardly there.  Hawthorn destroyed them.  It was one-on-one.  Each Hawthorn player had a zone, six inches away from his opponent.


The margin out to 48-points before settling at 42-points at half time.  AJ sat glumly and silent.  No one else was lamenting the margin.


Simon, a league man, cheered Hawthorn’s goals.  My brother Nick was jubilant.  He’s a North fan who hates Sydney too, especially because of the preliminary final.


Ben and Danny talked with Matty about citrus hops in home brew.  Stevo was wandering around, getting more mischievous with each beer.


The game was over.  It was junk time at half time.  The third quarter exposed Sydney as frauds.  No one could believe what was happening.  It was shocking.  The margin went beyond ten goals.  It was getting embarrassing.


Then Luke Hodge kissed Lance Franklin on the neck.  It was the kiss-off, as unexpected as Sydney’s ineptitude.  Franklin just smirked.  He kept his eyes open.  He’d been seduced by Sydney.  Hodge’s affection was nowhere near as alluring.


Brian Lake took a screamer over Kurt Tippett.  It was serious junk time.  Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis did what they pleased.  Cyril Rioli’s influence was in deft taps, pressure and smothers.  Josh Gibson roamed half back and Jarred Roughead got into the game.


At three-quarter time, Hawthorn led by 54-points.  Only two Hawk players, David Hale and Rioli, had less than ten touches.


The last quarter was a tired blur.  Sydney did as they had done all day, which was nothing.  Hawthorn won by 63-points.  I don’t think I’ve seen them play better for years.


After the game, it was steak rolls with onion and coleslaw.  And more beers.  The conversation was excited and without sympathy.


Can you believe Spangher is a premiership player, yes he’s a great player, cop that Sydney, they were dominated, I’ve never seen a favourite hammered like that, did you put that ten dollar bet on for me, why not, why didn’t you put your own ten dollar bet on, I lost fifteen on the game, I can’t believe Hawthorn won, I wish it was closer but I don’t care, fuck Sydney, fuck Sydney,


I went to bed about 8.30pm.  AJ went home.  Adam went to bed.  Simon and the Pole watched the league final in the garage.  The rest went to a nearby pub.


Stevo called me at 12.24am to tell me he’d had a great day, he was walking home from the pub and he’d lost his smokes.


I was hoping for a slow news day.  It wasn’t.  Former Labor MP Kate Jones announced she was making a comeback to contest the seat of Ashgrove against Queensland’s premier, Campbell Newman.


When I got home, I checked out the garage.  Every abandoned glass contained beer, half full, three quarters full or a dribble.  The empty keg stood like a monument to football.  I put the other keg, half empty and warm, into the fridge then gathered the bottles and glasses and cleaned them.


All day I’d been trying to figure out what happened to Sydney but my tired mind couldn’t analyse it.


Sydney’s performance can’t be explained.  It can’t be reasoned with.  It just happened like that.  And now, in the aftermath, even though I’m not disappointed, I still want to know why…


How could Sydney play like that?



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Matt, Sydney was startlingly bad. And the only thing I can come up with (ignoring Hawthorn’s obvious brilliance on the day) was that, somewhere along the journey of 2014 they started believing their own bullshit. An old man once told me he’d seen more men undone by believing their own bullshit than by any other disease. Bloods culture… yeah, sounds glorious. I can go for that.

  2. Good piece Matt. Wish it was ” Josh Hill gathered the crumb and snapped a goal”. Then my Eagles would have won the flag instead of finishing 9th. Apologies to Bradley Hill. I’ll speak to the editors.
    As for Sydney’s non-appearance – I have a Buddy theory. He is a brilliant individual and was the only Swans player to enhance his reputation on Saturday. But he is ‘fools gold’ because he upsets team balance and system. When you add Sydney’s disastrous recruiting of big log Tippett it makes them a very one-dimensional “bomb it long to Buddy and the big guys”. It works against average teams and undersized defences like North and the crippled Dockers – but it was never going to work against Lake, Gibson etc.
    Look at Buddy’s GF record. Dominates in 2012 – all Hawthorn’s attack through him. Kicks points. Result loss.
    2013 – Clarko knows he’s leaving. Recasts game plan to provide multiple targets. Buddy plays non descript game in midfield. Hawks win.
    2014 – Sydney gets sucked in by Buddy brilliance. No Plan B. Clarko perfects NBA style multiple offence and rapid passing to short options.
    Hawks murder them. I know its not just one factor, but its time we started looking beyond stars to teams and structures.
    I keep telling people to read NBA coach Phil Jackson’s ’11 Rings’ – his task at the Bulls and Lakers was getting Jordan and Kobe Bryant to run the offence – not be the offence.
    Me to We.
    “For every problem in a footy team there is a star recruit solution that is simple, obvious and wrong.”
    I rest my case.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Matt, you were much better off in the garage than at the game. Always enjoy your shed stories. Sounds like the perfect location for a Northern Almanac function!

  4. matt watson says

    Hey Peter,
    I am embarrassed at getting my Hill’s mixed up.
    Neat theory about Buddy.
    I’m also curious how so many good players were all off at the same time.
    It really was remarkable.
    In this era, it was a huge margin. 20 years ago it might’ve been a 90 point margin…

  5. matt watson says

    Luke, the garage is open for parties…

  6. Great piece of Aussie footy culture Matt. As for the Swans, it wasn’t Buddy’s fault because the scant few times they did get the ball inside 50 he was the only man that did something. No, the fault lies with the midfield’s inability to get their hands on the pill. Hawks smashed them physically. Look at the inside 50’s stats; they come from a winning or losing midfield. Where was Jack, Hannebery, etc? Only Kennedy was getting a touch. Perhaps the easy win in the prelim against North was not as good a preparation as the Hawks just scraping through was. Malceski was great for the Swannies, but overwhelmed in the end. I am not a Swans or Hawk supporter but disappointed in how early the game was over.

  7. Michael Pola says

    I have a 2005 Bloods tattoo over my heart and the night before the GF I watched that game again to get into the mood. Our premiership Club guaranteed GF tickets at $340 each (!) we on level 4 in the new Olympic stand but $340 ? What a rip off. From that height I could see how the Hawks spread out in defence within the 50 m arc area virtually choking off any avenue for the Bloods to move into. The game was over mid second term because unlike 2012 when we kicked 6 unanswered ones after a three goal deficit at quarter time , this time we did nothing. Sydney made Hawthorn look good-everything they tried and did worked, ditto nothing for the Bloods. The Buddy theory is irrelevant-he did try much harder than the majority of his team mates and I really only can mention Tippett and Goodes as well. Why do these morons keep booing him? It does detract from the Hawks victory. How can the top finishing team play its worst game in virtually three seasons? And when will Hawthorn stop wingeing about Sydney using its so called extra money to buy big names. I want to know when Hawthorn will stop pinching high ranked players from the lower clubs ( McEvoy, Lake, Hale when North was struggling, Burgoyne when Port was struggling , Gunston when Adelaide was struggling etc) .The pain remains

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