2014 AFL Grand Final
Sydney Swans v Hawthorn
Saturday 27 September, MCG
“This is the sweetest victory of all,” said Paul Keating at the Bankstown Sports Club on 13 March 1993. “This is a victory for the true believers.” The occasion was the ALP’s victory in the federal election, but he might just as easily have been referring to Hawthorn’s victory over Sydney in the 2014 AFL Grand Final.
Hawthorn overcame adversity on an almost Kurdish scale to triumph in this year’s premiership: Buddy Franklin defecting to the opponent at the end of last season, coach Alastair Clarkson being hospitalised and out of the game for five weeks with Guillain-Barre syndome, long-term injuries during the season to key players Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Cyril Rioli, Ben Stratton and Brad Sewell, suspensions to Brian Lake and Jarryd Roughead, the toughest draw of any club, an avaricious Grand Final opponent with a higher salary cap than any other team, and Ryan Schoenmakers’ hair bun.
If Buddy’s defection to Sydney soured to a degree 2013’s Grand Final win, then this is one we can savour; not just because of the obstacles we overcame, or that we won so emphatically, but because Buddy was on the other team and in his own way, got to share in it.
However, if this was a victory for the true believers, there weren’t many of them in the lead up to the match. In the betting markets, the Swans were short-priced favourites, starting the match at $1.35 to Hawthorn’s $2.65 – a massive differential for a two-team contest. In The Age on the day before the match, 19 ‘experts’ tipped Sydney to win, compared to just four for Hawthorn (and they shall be named and feted: Jesse Hogan, Peter Hanlon, Michael Gleeson and Wayne Carey). Even on the day after we’d won by 10 goals, the AFL website still had Sydney listed as overwhelming favourites. We weren’t just underdogs, we were whining, chained up mutts.
Of the 23 ‘experts’, 19 selected Swans players to win the Norm Smith medal, compared to just four selecting Hawthorn players, with Peter Hanlon and Wayne Carey both picking the Hawthorn/Luke Hodge double. Bizarrely more people thought Luke Parker would win the Norm Smith medal than Luke Hodge. What were they thinking? Who is Luke Parker?
The experts were talking up Sydney based on an impressive performance against North Melbourne the previous week, compared to Hawthorn’s relatively tougher and more taxing match against Port Adelaide. As far as short-sightedness goes, this is like getting a sleeve tattoo in your fit, toned and taut 20s without factoring in the sagging triceps, or chicken wing arms of your 50s.
In the finals Sydney had struggled to beat fourth-placed Fremantle and had then rolled over a weak North team, who had finished sixth. Compare this to Hawthorn who had defeated Geelong, a team that had sat top three for 13 weeks of the season, and Port Adelaide, who had spent longer at the top of the ladder during the season than any other team (7 weeks), including Sydney (6 weeks) and Hawthorn (5 weeks).
Aside from overcoming tougher finals opponents, the experts and tipsters seemed to have forgotten that Hawthorn finished with equal wins to Sydney (17), and defeated them on the same ground just eight weeks previous. Even when Sydney defeated Hawthorn in Round 8, it was in Sydney at a ground we’ve only played twice before and we were missing Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Brian Lake, plus Josh Gibson and Cyril Rioli became injured during the game. And even then we only lost by 19 points.
These experts were blinded by the bling of Sydney’s supposed virtues and oblivious to any merits the Hawks might possess. Luke Parker was suddenly being spoken of as the new Ablett – he was favourite for the Norm Smith medal no less. As good as Luke Parker might be, the experts in the media seemed to overlook that the Hawks boasted Luke Hodge and Luke Breust – that’s one more Luke for a start. They salivated over Sam Reid but forgot about Sam Mitchell, sang the praises of Jarrad McVeigh but barely mentioned Jarryd Roughead, acclaimed Lewis Jetta but neglected Jordan Lewis, glorified Kieran Jack but disregarded Jack Gunston, extolled Nick Smith and discounted Isaac Smith, praised Ben McGlynn and snubbed Ben Stratton and Ben McEvoy, and talked up Josh Kennedy over Josh Gibson. If the football media was to be believed, it was as if the Hawks weren’t going to be there at all. No one believed in us.
When your team qualifies for the Grand Final you immediately search for omens to reassure you that they will achieve victory. Naturally this process also means that you have to overlook those inconvenient signs that don’t fit your preferred hypotheses. Nor does it matter that fans of the opposing team are also seeing their own signs and that you can’t both be right, but you persist with your portents all the same.
Having said that, the omens I identified leading into this match were fairly persuasive, and perhaps even partly responsible for our ultimate triumph.
The local team I support in the EDFL, Aberfeldie, made the Grand Final for the second successive year. In 2013 Abers lost and Hawthorn won, so when Abers made it back to back losses in 2014, it was a sure sign that the Hawks were also on their way to back to back wins.
I’m no fan of Olivia Newton-John’s music (though like most men my age I quite liked the tight black leggings she wore in the latter stages of Grease), but I couldn’t help but see the greater significance of the fact that when she last sang at the Grand Final in 1986, Hawthorn defeated Carlton in the Grand Final. She was to be taking the mike again in 2014.
In 2013 when Hawthorn won its 11th premiership, our number 11, Brendan Whitecross missed the match due to injury. Here we were going for our 12th premiership and who gets left out of the side to play – number 12 Brad Sewell. On this basis, Kyle Cheney, number 13, has no chance of playing in the Grand Final next season. Kyle, you may as well know now.
This year I again queued early outside the MCC Members to secure a good seat for the game. Last year I’d managed to get in the front row on Level 2 of the MCC Members stand and sat second seat in from the aisle. The guy next to me last year was also a Hawthorn fan and a good Grand Final companion who knew the game well. When I arrived I again went to the same area and moved into the front to row, and who should be sitting in the aisle seat but my friend Andrew from the previous year. Did I know then that we’d win?
It’s not unusual
There are omens and then there are the Grand Final traditions. I’ve built up so many over the years that by the time I’ve fulfilled them all there is barely time to watch the game.
This year was even more complicated because Hawthorn friends Pete and Grant managed to wrangle a ticket for my son Oscar to attend. He wouldn’t be sitting with me, but he would be there, on hand to experience his first Grand Final at the ground! So after collecting my seat ticket in the MCC, I went home to collect Oscar and came back to the city. Here was another sign that things were going to work out. All of this running around on public transport involved three train trips and a tram trip, but every connection was seamless and there were no excessive wait times.
Oscar and I met my brother Graeme for our traditional Grand Final breakfast at Il Solito Posto, off Collins Street. The owner is a classic – a Tiges fan that on this occasion was exasperated by a couple of elderly customers who were fussing over a lunch menu that wasn’t yet available. An Il Solito breakfast is big and an excellent way to fortify yourself against later hunger and having to queue at the hot chip counter. Plus they serve beers. If the Tiges ever make the Granny, it will be the place to be pre-match.
We dispensed with our long-standing tradition of a beer at the Imperial on the corner of Bourke and Spring, and went instead to the Duke of Wellington to meet Pete, Grant and the gang to collect Oscar’s ticket. Graeme then made his way to the ground while Oscar and I joined the Hawthorn crew of Linda, Melinda, friends and family with whom I sat during the 80s. When Hawthorn is in the big one they hold a car park BBQ and we catch up with an array of old and new Hawks fans.
Then it was time to take Oscar to his entry gate and head into the ground. One quick Crowny at the Tower 6 Bar and I went to take my seat. My timing was poor, however, because I ventured to Level 2 just as Tom Jones was introduced, so you can imagine the congestion at the entry and the clogging of thoroughfares as the septuagenarians stood to squeeze out of their support garments to hurl them at Sir Tom.
As a former cheer squander from the 70s and 80s, I still love to check out the banners and the Hawks had a beauty to commemorate Hodgey’s 250th game on one side and team bonding on the other.
On Grand Final day there seems to be a couple of hundred people on the arena when the teams run out, but nevertheless, the shivers buzzed up and down my body like a quick-working drug when the boys in brown and gold emerged. We’re here again.
It has been a recent tradition for teams to soundtrack their entry with music other than their club song. This is because most club songs are naff. Hawthorn’s and Sydney’s songs, for instance, both feature banjo solos. Most famously Port Adelaide have adopted INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart as their anthem, which must seem ironic to any of their former board members. I hadn’t realised, however, that Sydney had also adopted some entry music: in their case the opening tribal drums, heavy breathing and screaming of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead. It sounded great. As audio branding goes, it certainly presents a more formidable soundtrack than Hawthorn’s Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Of course it’s not about the music, it’s about the game and that got underway with a series of fast and ferocious skirmishes as players from both teams went at the ball.
The scores were even early on but it was clear that Hawthorn were playing with a rabid intensity rarely seen outside religious insurgencies. Sustaining this ferocity was going to be the challenge. Which made early missed set shots from Liam Shiels and Jack Gunston frustrating. But we were getting the ball, and more importantly, stripping Sydney of it on the rare occasion they had it.
Josh Kennedy of the Swans kicked the first goal of the match, but the Hawks responded quickly with Brad Hill running clear and getting the ball to Matt Suckling, who speared a pass to The Poo. His set shot from 50 was a beauty and the Hawks were level.
After Buddy marked strongly and goaled, the Swans were ahead again, despite Hawthorn’s ascendency around the contest. This was Buddy’s second mark, but as Matt Spangher had done when Franklin took his first mark, Brian Lake fell roughly into him ‘in the contest’, in this case driving his elbow into Franklin’s head. Buddy was playing well, but he wasn’t going to get many easy, let alone pain-free possessions.
Shaun Burgoyne was playing a beautiful game of poise and polish. When he took possession time seemed to stop for him. He occupied his own world. His pass to Breust on 50 was gorgeous. Breust’s monster kick from the 50 metre arc that went straight through the middle was even better.
The scores were even again, but then the Hawks took over. The final 10 minutes of the first quarter and the first 10 minutes of the second quarter was the decisive period of the game. During this period Hawthorn applied relentless pressure on the Swans players and tackled like the All Blacks, pummelling the Swans into submission. In one sequence, four consecutive contests saw Sydney players try to take possession but get flung off the ball or ridden into the ground. Hawthorn was missing shots at goal, but this just meant but Sydney had to kick the ball in and this was a task they approached with all the assuredness of a male virgin confronted with a woman in lingerie.
The extreme pressure eventually led to goals. Instead of marking, Heath Grundy punched the ball into the arms of Brad Hill who kicked a simple goal. Jarryd Roughead hit Dan Hanneberry so hard it knocked the wind and also the will to live out of several Swans, and led directly to Gunston running in to kick an easy goal. This tackle epitomised the way the Hawks were approaching the game and would come to symbolise the match. Then Will Langford hurled himself into a pack and emerged to snap over his shoulder for our fourth unanswered goal and fifth of the quarter.
Quarter time: Hawthorn 5 5 35 v Sydney 2 3 15
The second quarter began inauspiciously enough with Ben McGlynn kicking a goal for Sydney and Ben McEvoy and Sam Mitchell both missing set shots for Hawthorn. At the six-minute mark Hawthorn’s lead was 16 points; nine minutes later it was 47 points. For repeat viewings, this was the period of the game that will rival Stuart Dew’s magic five minutes from the third quarter of the 2008 Grand Final.
Luke Breust kicked his second goal from a free kick; then Mitchell marked and passed to Hale who kicked accurately. From the next clearance Hodge handballed quickly to Langford who burst through half forward to kick another; then Roughead slammed it on his boot and Hodge marked in the goal square; a behind to The Poo gave Gary Rohan the kick-in which Hodge intercepted for another goal to give the Hawks a 47 point lead and trigger utter pandemonium in the stands. We kicked so many goals in such quick succession I nearly did my hammy standing up to cheer them.
When Adam Goodes kicked Sydney’s next goal, one of the guys seated near me pointed out that this was the first goal of the game not to be kicked by a Hawthorn player, or someone who used to play for Hawthorn, as Sydney’s other goal kickers were Kennedy, Franklin and McGlynn. Franklin added another after a good mark, but then Cyril brilliantly intercepted a Tippet handball and passed it to Roughead for his first and a half-time lead of 42 points.
Half-time: Hawthorn 11 9 75 v Sydney 5 3 33
Hawthorn’s half-time score of 75 was more than any other team had kicked in total against Sydney in the previous 12 weeks – except of course for Hawthorn in Round 18. Had I known that at the time, I might have been more bullish in my half-time assessment of the game. But I was still tense.
The biggest Grand Final comeback is 44 points for Carlton in the famous 1970 Grand Final. It was difficult to see that Sydney would muster something of its equal, but they had Buddy, and we’d nearly blown a five goal lead in the final 10 minutes the previous week, and Sydney still had 60 minutes of football to bridge the gap if they were good enough. So Hawks fans, while confident and slightly dizzy, were still not wholly certain of victory.
The main argument against a Swans comeback in the second half was just how well the Hawks had played in the first half. That had to count for something. Mitchell, Hodge, Lewis and Burgoyne were playing likes princes, but other lesser royals were also pivotal: Langford, Hill, Shiels, Stratton, Suckling and Spangher. McEvoy and Rioli more than justified their selection, while Breust, Gunston and of course the great Roughead were superb. It had been a complete team performance.
I joined my friend Martin, a Cats fan, in the Sir Bernard Cullinan Bar. He was quick to declare the match for the Hawks. One guy I pushed past on my way to the bar saw my ‘Premiers 2013’ cap and suggested I update the year. I may not have been wholly convinced as yet, but the non-partisan fans were already looking forward to next season.
If we can kick the first goal of the third quarter, I thought, we’re nearly there. Within minutes we had two: one to Roughead and one to Gunston, and the lead was 55 points! This was a goal glut. This was Hawthorn hedonism!
Two quick goals to the Swans brought us back to something like sobriety. The second was to Franklin who was playing a great game considering how seldom the ball was in his zone.
Cue the highlight reel: Lake takes a screamer over Tippett, Suckling snaps over his shoulder for a goal, Goodes misses a set shot, Hill passes to Roughead who kicks his third, then Langford, who has already kicked goal of the day twice, supersedes them with the best one yet: winning the ball from Josh Kennedy on the boundary line in the pocket, he kicked the ball low to keep it under Kennedy’s flailing attempt to smother, but drove it so hard into the ground that it bounced high and also eluded another Swan. If we were scoring goals like that, then the Fates were guiding the ball for us. As it went through I leapt to my feet with such mad exhilaration, I actually got a headrush and nearly fainted. I could not have been more aroused if Scarlett Johanssen, wearing nothing but a Hawthorn jumper, were to whisper the score into my ear.
And I wasn’t the only one feeling stimulated by the goal. Tangling with Buddy, Luke Hodge gave him a kiss on the cheek. In the most famous of all kisses it is Judas who betrays Christ by kissing him. In this one, it was Christ kissing Judas.
The kiss, of course, is a symbol of love, passion, congratulation, friendship and affability. It’s a greeting and a farewell, and perhaps in this case it was a bit of both. This Hodge-Franklin smooch joins the gallery of famous kisses: Judas kissing Christ, Auguste Rodin, Rene Magritte, the grafitti on the Berlin Wall of Roanld Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev, and of course the most famous smooch of all, Dermott Brereton and Billy Duckworth.
With a 54 point three quarter time lead, I was also up for kissing just about anyone who strayed into my path, so Hodgey’s affectionate peck on Buddy is quite understandable. Particularly as Tom Jones and Ed Sheeran had sung the Prince hit, ‘Kiss’ earlier: Hodgey was simply enacting their prophecy.
Three quarter time: Hawthorn 16 11 107 v Sydney Swans 8 5 53
The Strip – “If Hawthorn win I’m getting naked”
In the first minute of the final quarter, Hodge got the ball out to Isaac Smith who passed to Luke Breust in the pocket. Breust’s elegant kick went straight through the middle to give the Hawks a 10-goal lead.
From here on it was a brown and gold celebration. Rioli was subbed-out and Taylor Duryea came on and gathered nine possessions in 15 minutes – more than several Swans players managed for the entire match. He was so effective he nearly played himself into Norm Smith medal contention. As did Ben Stratton who took a series of fine marks at half back.
Shaun Burgoyne bagged a couple of goals – the first from outside 50 after a graceful turn.
Duryea went on a five bounce run along the outer wing after which he was pushed, gifting a free kick downfield and goal number five for the big Rough!
Hodge hung about on the Members wing taking simple marks to repeated roars of “Ole!” from Hawks fans.
In my row speculation had begun about the winner of the Norm Smith medal winner. I thought Mitchell, another said Hodge, and someone else said Lewis,. Andrew next to me nominated Stratton while I also heard Langford. I thought they should quickly mint a few more so that everyone who deserved it could get one. Just as there should have been a seond Jock McHale medal for ‘Bolts’ – Brendan Bolton who coached for five weeks in place of Clarkson. Is it time they renamed that medal the Alastair Clrkson medal? Ot least give him a statue at Waverley.
The most pleasing aspect of the final quarter was that Hawthorn kept going and still outscored the Swans, kicking five goals to three – never letting up and not allowing Sydney any cheap consolation goals. Pretty much every player got a final quarter touch and a chance to take a bow as they did so. And each player rotated off the ground received a standing ovation as they ran towards the bench.
The only way this could have been better is if the final play had come off. With just 10 seconds on the clock, Burgoyne had the ball on the northern flank, looked up and saw Matt Spangher loose in the opposite pocket. As the ball sailed in Spangher’s direction, every Hawks fan rose in anticipation of to the perfect finale. A goal after the siren to The Spang might have provoked a ground invasion. Sadly the fates weren’t with us and Sydney managed to intervene before the bearded one could take it.
It was one of the most gratifying Grand Finals ever, and when the final siren rang with Matt Suckling about to gather a loose ball, I leapt to my feet and embraced Andrew next to me. I’ve met this guy twice in my life and on each occasion we’ve embraced in tears – I think there might be a bromance brewing. We’ve made a pact to meet up at the same seats next time the Hawks are in the big one.
Many commentators would described Hawthorn’s performance as ‘total football’ – in refernce to the Dutch football game-plan of the 70s in which every player can play every position. And while that is as true of this Hawthorn team as it could be of any Australian football team, this was more than just ‘total’ football;, it was ‘full-on’ football.
The Norm Smith medal was awarded to Luke Hodge – his second following the one he won in 2008. Watching the game live I thought Sam Mitchell or Hodge would win it. Watching it in replay I thought perhaps Jordan Lewis might have won it, but really, it was only ever out of those three. Between them, Hodge, Lewis and Mitchell received 28 of the 30 possible votes (with Gibson and Langford also receiving one each), so really, they should each have received one. Hodge probably got it as much for his smother against Port Adelaide the week previous as for anything he did this week. It is perhaps instructive that Roughead kicked 5 goals and didn’t come into consideration.
I like a woman who is true to her word. Heather McCartney, arrested for stripping in one of the corporate boxes after Saturday’s match, later told the Magistrates court, “I said if Hawthorn win I’m getting naked. And they won, and I got naked.” Well that seems perfectly reasonable to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said exactly those words and then acted on it. And really, if ever there was an occasion that justified it, this was it: Back-to-Back Premiers. 21 goals. An emphatic 10-goal triumph. Revenge for 2012. Matt Spangher. All good reasons to celebrate. All good reasons to disrobe. In fact I’m shocked more people didn’t ‘get naked’ for Hawthorn. Getting your gear off and parading about not only a perfectly natural response to Hawthorn going back to back, it’s the only response.
This is Hawthorn hedonism.
Final scores: Hawthorn 21 11 137 d Sydney Swans 11 8 74.
What we learned: Sydney may enjoy a higher salary cap than any other team, they may have outlayed $2 million this year on their two key forwards alone, but they still lost the Grand Final by 10 goals. Clearly the salary cap is still too restrictive.
What we already knew: There’s never a frown with the gold and brown.
What we wonder: When the boys get together in 2039 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our back to back flags, as they did this year for the 1988-89 triumph – will Buddy have to leave half way through the night? Or will he just have to shout the drinks?
What we can continue to take satisfaction from: Forget the Kennett curse – it is worth noting that in each of our past five premierships, 1989, 1991, 2008, 2013 and 2014 – we’ve defeated Geelong at some stage in the Finals series or in the Grand Final itself.