Finals Week 2 – Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs: A Night To Remember

It’s 5pm on a Friday afternoon, and my brother Leigh, my cousin Taylor and myself are almost ready to go and venture towards the MCG for tonight’s epic showdown between the Bulldogs and the Hawks. I packed us all hot dogs for half-time, as well some nibbles to share and a two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola.

I purchased the tickets a little later than originally hoped, as I was praying there would be first-level seating for us three, unfortunately though we were consigned to level four seats. Not that it was end-of-the-world stuff or anything, but getting first-level seats would’ve been awesome for a massive game like this. They’d predicted during the week that their would be about 85– 90,000 expected to attend this game as it was the only AFL – sanctioned match on in Melbourne this weekend.

Taylor suggested that I drive us all up to the MCG, but I quickly shut it down, suggesting that she had no idea about how stuffed Punt Road would be at this time of night, as we opted to take the train. I drove us all to Hampton Station and as I parked the car, a train going city-bound left the station, it wasn’t too bad, there was another one coming in about ten minutes, time for us all to top up our myki cards and wait a few minutes.

The train ride from Hampton to Richmond took about half-an-hour, but it felt so much quicker. We were all sharing internet memes with one another and having a quick laugh. Right before we got to Richmond Station, I showed my cousin how packed Punt Road was when we crossed it, but she still wanted me to drive there. What an insane character, even the stranger sitting next to her on the train said I made the right decision as her friend missed the entire first quarter of the Hawthorn-Geelong game last week as she decided to drive up to the game.

We get inside the arena with just over an hour and a half to spare. We get shown our seats by a lovely old MCG worker who wished us good luck for the night ahead. This game was built up beautifully by the media. The champions Hawthorn, who were denied a win at the final siren last week by a errant kick by the smirking Isaac Smith were hoping to get back on the winners’ list tonight with a win over the young upstarts in the Doggies, who smashed through West Coast last week. Both Taylor and Leigh didn’t rate us as a chance, but after witnessing both sides last week, I reckon the Dogs are a sneaky chance in ending Hawthorn’s chances of a historical ‘Fourpeat’.

As expected, not many people have taken their seats at the time of 6:30pm, but it was as peaceful as the stadium will get all night. Taylor went up to the back of the seats to take a picture, whilst Leigh, in his words, ‘was soaking it all in’. After Taylor gets back to our seats, we all go through the AFL Record for a little bit, playing along to the Player Biographies in the middle of the Record and talk about the Doggies until just after 7PM, where Taylor and I went to grab some hot chips, as we always do when we go to watch a live AFL game, but tonight was no ordinary AFL game.

We eat our chips, watch both teams go through their pre-game routines and talk smack about the opposition and before long, we were cheering our team and booing the rival. It looked like quite a few non-supporters turned up just to see if the Doggies could knock the Hawks out of the finals. I reckon, like us, we were sick and tired of seeing the Hawks win premierships, but you can’t deny how great they’ve been for so long. We then stood up for the national anthem, which I must admit, gets me really up and about. The roar of the crowd at the conclusion of the anthem was nearly deafening. This looked like it was going to be a beauty.

Unfortunately though, the Dogs got off to one of the more poorer starts for a final. Tory Dickson misses a couple of easy shots on goal, whilst on the other end, Hawthorn go BANG, BANG! And BANG! Three goals in a row from the champs gets them off to a flyer. Doggies’ captain Easton Wood finally gets the Doggies on the board after being the recipient of a brilliant kick from first-year teenager Josh Dunkley. Toby McLean added another one out of nowhere…Or so we thought. Luke Hodge claimed to have touched the kick and had the decision reversed, leaving everyone frustrated in a state of disbelief. Leigh and I then spent the next few minutes ranting and raving about the decision.

“T-MAC GOT ROBBED!!!” Leigh cries out.

“I WANT JUSTICE FOR T-MAC!!!” I call out shortly afterwards. After looking at the replay the following day, it was in fact the right call.

The quarter time siren sounded shortly afterwards and a chorus of boos echoed across the arena shortly thereafter. The Doggies, we knew were right in the contest, but woeful kicking in front of goal saw them down by a couple of kicks when they probably should be up.

Cyril goals in the opening minute, but the Dogs continue to apply the pressure on the Hawks in the second term. Jake Stringer opens up his account for the night with a beautiful snap under pressure. Just seconds after the Stringer goal, The Bont puts Hodge on his backside and takes a wonderful diving mark in what may just go down in Footy Folklore as a ‘Changing Of The Guard’. I could watch that mark for hours, maybe even days. Bontempelli converts truly and the Dogs are right back in it, with less than a kick separating the two sides.

Hawthorn then kick away to a three goal lead with goals in quick succession from Brad Hill, Liam Shiels and Hodge. Luke Breust should’ve made it four, but his shot on goal from close range was a shocker. Leigh was sensing that this game was getting out of hand, and the sour look on his face told the story. Johannisen misses one, Dunkley sprays a couple of easy set shots, even Taylor was taking notice of the dirty look Leigh was giving out.

The young kid Dunkley finally gets one to go through the big sticks on his third shot on goal and all of a sudden there was hope. Liam Picken’s courageous mark going back with the flight before being cleaned up by Luke Breust following that goal looked to have been the turning point of it all. Clay Smith impresses with two quick goals, one from a difficult angle and the other one from a contested mark against Ben Stratton. All of a sudden 23 points became just three points.

We’re all a little excited here in our seats. Tom Boyd leads up and takes a good mark, but misses his shot on goal from long range. Not long after, Tory Dickson is given an opportunity to rectify his early misses with a shot on goal to put the Dogs in front at half time. He however, misses again and the Dogs go into the rooms only a point down, but not before Taylor Duryea thought it was wise to get stuck into the Doggies players before they go into the rooms. Not a very smart move Mr. Duryea.

This starts an all-out push and shove, with Tom Boyd and Cyril Rioli in the thick of it, Bontempelli and Isaac Smith were having a merry dance of their own, hopefully with Bontempelli reminding Isaac of his ‘choke’ last week against the Cats. I could sense from where I was sitting that the champions were rattled and an attempt to get into the heads of the younger and seemingly, hungrier opponents looked like it failed.

The three of us enjoyed a hot dog at half time, despite the rolls that I had bought earlier on in the day crumbled easier than the Gold Coast player roster with injuries. A message from my Mum said that the Doggies needed a big second half. I suppose that was before the Dogs kicked those last three goals of the quarter. I quickly reply to her and let her know that we were only down by a point. I wonder what my Hawthorn-supporting father was thinking back at home? I wanted him to come with us tonight, but he opted to stay at home, believing that the view at home is much better.

We prepare ourselves for the second half, still as excited for the outcome as we were at the start. Breust makes amends for his horrible miss in the second term with a goal out the back to open up the third term. Jack Gunston follows up shortly after with a second goal, until the official upstairs overrules it and calls that the kick was touched.

Justice for T-Mac has been served.

Picken gets a goal off of a free-kick. Clay Smith finds an open Jake Stringer just outside the goal-square, and puts the Doggies in front with his second. The Dogs take full control of the champions. The Dogs pile on the pressure with another four goals for the term, with every goal like a blow to the stomach for the Hawks’ players. Jordan Roughead kicks a very nice goal, whilst T-Mac makes the most out of what was a questionable free-kick. Jake Stringer gets his third with an unbelievable snap off of basically one step and Bonty’s goal out the back of the congestion was just the cream of the premiership-quarter cake.

The crowd get on their feet at the three quarter time siren and applaud the brilliant Bulldogs’ third term. Up by 26 points at the final break, us three were all expecting Hawthorn to make a charge at the early stages of the last quarter, but it doesn’t happen, as the Dogs continue to shine. Dickson finally gets his first goal at a crucial stage of the game as Bontempelli intercepts a Hodge handpass. It is definitely a changing of the guard. Liam Picken then kicks the next two to seal the deal. The Western Bulldogs are going to another prelim, ahead by 43 points – Who saw this one coming?

The Hawks then take some respectability to the scoreboard with four goals in a row. There was a brief period where I thought that the Hawks would make a miraculous comeback, as great sides so often do, but they had left it too little, too late. Watching the Hawthorn supporters leave at the midway point of the quarter was definitely a pleasing sight to see, and I made sure I let them know about it. Nothing like a little bit of cheap banter on the way out the door right?

Little Caleb Daniel gets a free kick and then 50 with a shot on goal from the top of the goal-square. The siren sounds just as he roosts it through as we all celebrate and belt out the song. I think we all sung it about five times, each time with gusto. I could barely speak as we boarded the Sandringham train on the way back home.

The ride home gave me time to reflect. A date with the Greater Western Sydney Giants next week at Spotless hey? That’ll be an interesting game. It’s amazing to think that either the Giants or the Dogs will be in a Grand Final this year.

Regardless of the result this year, I think my brother, my cousin and I will look back on this night, September 16th, 2016 with great fondness. It was a night to truly remember.

Hawthorn                  3.4    7.5     8.9     12.12.84
Western Bulldogs    1.5     6.10  12.11   16.11.107


Hawthorn: Shiels 2, Hodge 2, Sicily, Gunston, Puopolo, Rioli, Hill, Breust, Fitzpatrick, Burgoyme
Western Bulldogs: Stringer 3, Picken 3, Smith 2, Bontempelli 2, Wood, McLean, Dunkley, Roughead, Dickson, Daniel


Hawthorn: Shiels, Hodge, Burgoyne, Mitchell, Puopolo, Smith
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Picken, Smith, Dunkley, Stringer, Daniel

Votes: 3: M.Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs), 2: J.Macrae (Western Bulldogs), 1:L.Shiels (Hawthorn)

About Alex Docherty

Alex is a diehard footy nut. He loves his Western Bulldogs and loves writing about them every week as much he loves running out and playing footy himself.

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