Finals Week 1 – Hawks? Canaries!


Immediately following the Qualifying Final, the opening match of the 2018 AFL Finals series, the losing coach, Clarko, conducted his “presser”. He made an observation that most Hawks fans understood and had already tucked into their hats in the days leading up to this game. You see media commentators and footy pundits and, well everybody had piled their bets onto a bizarre argument. They rationalised that Clarko the magician could produce some extraordinary secret trick that would outclass the Tiges, the team that has been the competition’s high water mark for almost two seasons. Clarko’s sleeve, he explained in his presser, did not as it turns out contain a surprise and, in the same event, the Tiges left no doubt of their standing as the team to beat. They are, simply, the best.


For this Hawker, these media write-ups made for an odd build up to the game. I laughed at or dismissed these claims and hypotheticals as white noise every time they were raised. And they were raised in every conversation when someone solicited my view as to the outcome of the Qualifying Final. The ‘Clarko of the magical tactical surprise’ argument applies syllogistic logic (in which two propositions are asserted or assumed as true). Never a good foundation for a claim.


When asked how I thought the game would play out, I considered the following:

  1. Are the Hawks really a Top 4 side?
  2. What games this year (and especially in the last 6 weeks) demonstrate that we can challenge the Tiges?
  3. Have we got the firepower up forward and down back to meet and beat the yellow and black?
  4. Is the current Hawks team settled or are we in fact still forming to norming in preparation to at some stage go performing?
  5. Have we got (even an idea of what might be) the Tige’s kryptonite?


Here are my conclusions:

  1. I don’t think so.
  2. Can’t really think of one.
  3. Yeah, nuh.
  4. We are rebuilding (laugh if you like) and it will take another year or two until we are truly performing.
  5. I wish!


So this was my response when asked how we’d go against the Tiges:

I reckon the Hawks are the canaries in the coalmine for the other six teams in the mix. (Now 4 teams). We may as well play a finals series against each other and whoever pops up as the best of a second best bunch then takes the Tiges on in the Grannie. Or, we combine a “best of” team from the last five teams standing and that team attempts to take down the Tiges.


It’s not that I reckon the Hawks could not compete. Of course we can. But the Tiges are a cut above. They really are. And, as it turned out, they were. With Dusty on fire and song, playing one of his best games for the year, the Tiges could not be beaten. We challenged and pressured. And early on even controlled things. But that ain’t enough. You’ve got to beat them. Everywhere. On the paddock, in the air, at the stoppages, in every contest and when you get a run or control of the game or the spark of ascendency, you’d better make sure that is reflected on the scoreboard. The Tiges will punish you if you don’t. They are hungry. 37 years of hungry. Last year didn’t satiate that hunger. It actually made them hungrier. And why not? Good on ‘em.


The game played out as I expected. Actually, a little better than I had thought. I was dreading a 50-point plus defeat as I imagined the Tiges declaring the ‘G’ metaphorically and physically as their turf to all other contenders. I thought this would be their big statement game. Maybe it was. I don’t know anything when it comes to the Tiges. They’re awesome, frighteningly so.


Dusty is magnificent. From his creative taps to that knife in the heart goal to his reading of the ball (I think he’s a ball-whisperer) and his clearances and on and on. A consummate footballer at the peak of his career. And it’s not as if the Tiges rely on him! They are jammed up with talent. In the 2018 All-Australian, the Tiges filed out Full-Back, Full-Forward and Centre, the jewel of the midfielders. That is a serious spine in anyone’s reckoning.


And that is who the Hawks faced, fought and got beaten (up) by last Thursday night. Every other finalist would have surely gulped in the Third when the Tiges stole the game from their hapless opposition. Yes, we were the canaries. At one point late in the quarter the Tiges had 15 of 16 inside 50s. Ouch!


But this is not to say the Tiges can’t be beaten. Of course they can. The Cats got mighty close a few weeks back. Every other Finalist would be pouring over the video of the Hawks game. Asking, what can we do to stop this tide of a team? Well for starters, bear in mind that the Hawks weren’t that far from the pace. Three gimme shots missed by our best kicks before half-time go through and the score line looks different. Team confidence meters would reflect the scoreboard too. Sicily was rusty, Stratton left the field halfway through the Third. A number of our top-shelf players didn’t step up. Yes the Tiges were easily the better side but they can be beaten.


The mountain is not insurmountable. Apply heat-gun pressure, absorb Richmond’s pack attacks, bulk up your back half and defend with honour, move the ball precisely and quickly but with an aggressive intent and maintain composure for 120 minutes. Yeah, that should do it. And best of luck. I’d say may the best team win but that is the Tiges by a country mile. So here’s to the team that doesn’t bow or kow-tow or cower to the onslaught that is the Tiges and, given half a chance, gets the better of them. Wouldn’t that lift this great game to another level altogether?


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. Rick
    It’s refreshing to read such a simple and logical explanation of this game.

    I’m glad Clarkson himself hosed down all that tripe about special plans. You’ve got to acknowledge four Premierships in 10 years, but wasn’t the media obsession with Clarkson’s supposed strategic genius a bit OTT (not to mention a bit dismissive of whatever strategies his counterpart might have devised)? Heaven forbid that his “remarkable” success in finals might be simply due to having had the best team for much of this period?

    Observers from outside Victoria might also want to consider this simple breakdown of his finals record:
    In Melbourne vs interstate teams – 9 wins 1 loss
    In Melbourne vs Victorian teams – 6 wins, 6 losses
    Playing interstate – 1 win, 2 losses
    Suggests that over the journey, Clarko’s enjoyed the rub of the green with finals fixturing.

    So yes, of course, he’s a fine coach and has had an influence in Hawthorn’s success, but the media might want to remember that coaches don’t play the game.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Both of Friday night’s coaches were out watching D1 ammos at Trevor Barker Oval the next day, but not together I might add. I think that they get it.

    Well played Rick.

  3. Love your work.

  4. Humble. Level headed. Are you sure you’re a Hawks fan?

    Hawks were honest, Trucker. But you called it right.

    What do you reckon re Dees?

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