Preliminary Final – Hawthorn v Port Adelaide: A classic match (from 2014)

Hawthorn v Port Adelaide

4.45pm, Saturday 20 September

Melbourne Cricket Ground

John Harms

 

If, in the years to come, you ever have a spare couple hours and would like to be reminded of the magnificence of the Australian game, find the DVD of this one. This was the game of the 2014 season.

It pitted the defending premier, a team which has found recent Preliminary Finals rather nerve-wracking, against the emerging young guns. A big crowd gathered in the cool twilight, a surprising number having travelled from across the border.

In the opening minutes Port fans were glad they’d made the trip. Their boys came out firing. They were tenacious: players like Boak and Ebert and Hartlett were so hard at the footy, and their little blokes ran with pace and strength. Hawthorn looked rattled as Port remained the initiators.

There was one problem: for all their domination they did not punish Hawthorn on the scoreboard as they had Richmond in the first week of the finals and Freo after half-time last week. The behind-tally climbed. What could easily have been 8.4 was 3.9 and a lead of 12 points.

The Hawks eventually returned fire. In the second they won more of the ball through Mitchell and friends and used it beautifully. Roughie was on. He was cruising around the forward line, then higher up the ground, combining supreme skill (is he really that big?) with explosive power. At times the Port defenders contained the Hawthorn attack, but the goals kept coming, and the fancied team led by half-time.

The Hawks continued to control the match in the third, although only just. Port did not shirk the issue at all, maintaining their defensive pressure like a team that believed it could still win. When Roughie kicked his sixth, however, it looked like things were going their way and the visitors’ season might be done.

Far from it.

The last quarter was simply brilliant. The Hawks fans were loud. The Port fans were loud. Those who’d come for the love of the game were completely engaged.

Port has run over many sides this year and Matt Lobbe’s attack on the Sherrin at the opening bounce projected belief to all those present, especially to his teammates. When Port secured the footy, they sent it wherever there might be some space. Might being the operative word. It was time to take chances.

Chad Wingard, quiet until three-quarter time, got going. He brought the ball to ground for Robbie Gray to rove and snap. Then Lobbe drifted forward and launched himself into a pack to take an inspirational mark. But his shot missed.

Hawthorn steadied. They tried to keep possession, testing the capacity of their opponents to maintain the level of pressure required to win it back, in the hope any spirit would be doused. It looked like the Hawks had managed to achieve their aim when, after Gunston’s clever mark in the goal-square, they led by 28 points.

But, with all to play for, Port attacked off half-back. We’re-more-skilful-then-you attack. We’re-unstoppable attack. Wingard was phenomenal. Every time he touched the footy he seemed to create something. Then, when he took a chest mark by the behind post, he calmly banana-ed the goal. Sixteen points the difference.

Now, you can hardly hear yourself. Wingard comes off the back of the square and snares the footy again. The Port wave rolls with him. But somehow the Hawks get in the way. A little unlucky.

Ebert gets clear. Boak tussles with opponents, and beats them. It’s all Port. This is great stuff. Polec leads and marks at 55 – and bombs one thorugh! Ten points.

Again, it’s Wingard bursting away, down the southern wing. What poise he has! He passes to full forward. And picks out Monfries! Four points. With a few minutes left.

The Hawks have nothing. Hodge puts himself in the middle and looks at Wingard on the square. The two players come head-on at a loose ball and Hodge soccers it away. There’s free Port players everywhere and they load up again. Wide to Ebert. He runs – and finds Moore on his own in the pocket. With a minute to go. Moore can win the game for Port. His shot goes just across the face. Three points.

From the kick-out Ebert takes a strong mark. Conscious of the hour, he plays on – in the way that Port has all year. Hodge comes from nowhere and throws himself across Ebert’s boot. Holding the ball!

There’s still a few seconds left. Port are swarming. Nothing will stop them – if there’s time. They win it back. They’re out again. Monfries leads. Lake spoils – just. Then Lake dives on the footy. Ball? Must be? No!

Siren.

Superb from both teams. Hawthorn: too good on the night. Just!

We shook our heads at the quality of the game.

Port Adelaide headed back to Alberton, reputation enhanced, hungrier than ever.

 

Votes:   3. Roughead (H)    2.    Boak (PA)   1.   Hodge (H)

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

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