What we learnt from the 2013 AFL Grand Final

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

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    Another AFL season is over and for the first time since 2010, the team that proved to be the best throughout the regular season won the match that mattered most – the grand final.

    That team is Hawthorn, who all but buried the demons of last year’s heartbreaking grand final loss to Sydney in the most emphatic fashion to win their 11th VFL/AFL premiership at the expense of Fremantle, who appeared overawed by the occasion of a maiden AFL grand final appearance.

    Entering the grand final, questions were going to be asked about whether the Hawks could rebound from last year’s disaster against a team which has come from a very long way since entering the competition in 1995.

    Alastair Clarkson’s men had come off a bruising preliminary final against Geelong, which famously ended the ‘Kennett curse’, which had dated back to the Hawks’ last premiership, back in 2008, while Fremantle came in having disassembled the premiership defence of the Sydney Swans.

    Many saw Fremantle as the favourites, given the manner in which they dominated the Swans and the Hawks’ nervy performance against the Cats at the same time.

    However, it was the experience of the Hawks that counted the most, with nine of the team that lined up having also played in the team that upset the Geelong Cats to win the 2008 premiership.

    The nine Hawks who can now proudly call themselves dual Hawthorn premiership players are: Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead, Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis, Brad Sewell, Grant Birchall, Brent Guerra and Cyril Rioli.

    Shaun Burgoyne can also call himself a dual premiership player, having experienced the ultimate success with Port Adelaide in 2004.

    By contrast, Ross Lyon fell to a third grand final loss as head coach, having previously failed in his attempt to land St Kilda a second premiership in 2009 and 2010.

    Zac Dawson also fell to the same record, having also previously played in the three aforementioned grand finals at the Saints under Lyon.

    So where did it all go wrong for the Fremantle Dockers?

    Their first half was as poor a half they could possibly have ever played, as nerves and stage fright got the better of the team, all but two of whom were playing in their first AFL grand final.

    Their goalkicking accuracy deserted them as Nat Fyfe missed two set shots which went out on the full, one shot at goal appeared on target only for it to be touched on the line, and Matthew Pavlich skewed a set shot with half-time looming.

    Their attack also failed to create any opportunities, and even though they came back to within three points twice in the third quarter, as many expected them to do, they were no chance of ever winning the match.

    Whenever the Dockers tried to challenge, the Hawks would always answer back.

    And in the vital fourth quarter, which started with the Hawks leading by ten points, there was one man who won the premiership for them with his strong performance in defence – Brian Lake, who crossed over from the Western Bulldogs at the beginning of the year in pursuit of an elusive premiership.

    His strong outmarking of the Fremantle attack was what won him the Norm Smith Medal – and this will no doubt be his sweetest ever moment as he himself buried the demons of three consecutive preliminary final losses with the Bulldogs between 2008 and 2010.

    In the end, the Hawks scored 11.11 (77) – four behinds less than their losing score of 11.15 (81) from last year.

    By contrast, the Dockers managed only eight majors and 14 behinds – if there was a time where they lost the match, it was in the first half alone.

    What if the Dockers had taken their chances in the first half? Would they have won the match? Or did nerves get the better of them?

    They say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

    Hawthorn’s premiership victory came after they choked on the big stage against the Sydney Swans last year, losing by ten points after having led by as much as two goals midway through the final quarter.

    While the Swans were deserved premiers last year, many feel the Hawks should have won the flag, given they had finished at the top of the ladder during the regular season.

    The fear of another grand final failure among this talented squad was what drove them to victory this year; the same was said when Geelong defeated the Ross Lyon-coached and stage fright-plagued St Kilda in 2009 after having lost to the Hawks in 2008, and when the Eagles beat the Swans in 2006 after having lost to them in the previous year.

    All the Dockers can do now is learn from this year’s defeat, which should spur them on as they bid to go one better in 2014.

    Ross Lyon, on the other hand, is fast trying to avoid continuing a losing grand final record which could be compared to that of Andy Murray’s previous Grand Slam troubles in tennis.

    Next year marks the Dockers’ 20th year in the competition and there is no doubt they would love to mark it with a maiden premiership.

    The Dockers should know they are not alone following this grand final loss – the West Coast Eagles also lost their premiership decider debut, against the Hawks, back in 1991.

    The Eagles then won two premierships in the ensuing three years, both coming at the expense of the Geelong Cats. They also added another premiership to their tally in 2006.

    Thus, there is no reason why the Dockers cannot go one better in 2014.

    As for the Hawks – they will now revel in the glory of their latest premiership, and completely forget about the failure that was 2012 once and for all.

    Their premiership victory now means seven of the last nine premierships have been won by either Hawthorn (2008 and 2013), Geelong (2007, 2009 and 2011) or the Sydney Swans (2005 and 2012) – with the only blots being West Coast (2006) and Collingwood (2010).

    Geelong blew a chance to continue their odd-year dynasty by losing last week’s preliminary final against the Hawks.

    This comes a decade after the Brisbane Lions captured a hat-trick of premierships at the turn of the century, and ever since Sydney started the three-team stranglehold in 2005, the Lions have struggled.

    Each grand final since 2005 has featured at least one of Geelong, Hawthorn, Sydney or Ross Lyon.

    The only year in which not one of the Cats, Hawks or Swans reached the grand final was in 2010, when the Lyon-coached Saints drew, then lost, against Collingwood in the two-leg grand final.

    The question will be whether this trend can continue on into 2014 and beyond.

    Finally, congratulations to Hawthorn, a well deserved 11th VFL/AFL premiership, one that will be toasted by the players for days to come.

    And commiserations to Fremantle, who I know will be back stronger and better than ever in 2014.

    The Hawks’ premiership caps off what has been a somewhat controversial 2013 season, as the Melbourne tanking saga, the Essendon supplements scandal, and the Adam Goodes racism controversy plagued the year.

    But what a year it has been for the Hawthorn Football Club, as they buried the demons of 2012 in the most emphatic fashion.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • September 29th 2013 @ 9:38am
      Jacques of Lilydale said | September 29th 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Hawks nervy performance against the Cats? Don’t think so. They were the better team on the night in a belter of a game. Ross Lyon’s game plan brings the game in to disrepute. More like watching a rolling maul a la rugby league. The scrappy error riddled game from Freo such a contrast to the Hawks-Cats game the week before.

      • October 3rd 2013 @ 7:03pm
        Simoc said | October 3rd 2013 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

        Only to those who don’t understand or follow the game. Losers. You obviously listen to the critics and can’t see with your non brain attached eyes. But its good of noddies like you to announce their ignorance.

    • September 29th 2013 @ 9:45am
      Brendon the 1st said | September 29th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Hawthorne proves that by having more money than smaller clubs makes it easy to steal players, better to let a smaller club pay the cash to develop the player for the first few years and then to poach em than to develop your own, I fear it will only get worse for teams that aren’t the big money spinners now that free agency is up and going.

      • September 29th 2013 @ 10:34am
        Aransan said | September 29th 2013 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        What about the Bulldogs play for Crameri of Essendon? Essendon have developed Crameri for the first few years and now the Bulldogs look like getting him for nothing through the pre-season draft. Weaker clubs can pay their players more and stay within the salary cap, on the other hand Lake moved to Hawthorn for less money. All the Victorian clubs have the same salary cap. Players who really want to be part of premierships have to be prepared to take less than market value in remuneration.

      • September 29th 2013 @ 2:04pm
        Jacques of Lilydale said | September 29th 2013 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

        Stupid argument Brenden 1st, steal players?? How much did Freo pay for a coach who’s game plan unravels in Grand Finals. That was a real contract breaker. Brian Lake dropped $200,000.00 a year to go to the hawks, wasn’t about the money, was about playing for a succesful club. Couldn’t get a game at the Bulldogs, they didn’t even play him in the end. Also Hale couldn’t get a game at North Melbourne, Gibson had problems with North as well. Jonathan Simpkin couldn’t get a game at Geelong, Guerra was discarded by StKilda, even Sam Mitchell couldn’t get an opportunity with anyone for a while., so your arguments don’t hold up by any measure. Open your eyes and take your bias out of the equation. Hawthorn develop their own players and look for others that will fit in to what’s missing in their list. That’s very smart recruiting, and gives discards another chance in the big time. Their system improves those guys to make them the best that they can be. Hawks are also about to lose Lance Franklin to GWS who have a war chest no other club has. That’s unfair. Smaller clubs!!!! Who do you call smaller clubs?

        • September 29th 2013 @ 11:24pm
          pope paul v11 said | September 29th 2013 @ 11:24pm | ! Report

          North wanted to keep Gibson.

        • September 30th 2013 @ 2:33pm
          TheCunningLinguistic said | September 30th 2013 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          I have no issue with Ross Lyon’s game-plan. I think it was the players themselves that unravelled. Had every Freo player played with the same intensity, focus and skill that they showed against Geelong & Sydney, the result could have been quite different. They simply played too nervously, lost their composure and their skill-set, particularly in the first half. The second half was a cracker, just a shame those Dockers couldn’t show up in the first half! Full credit to Hawthorn, there’s no doubt they were the better team on the day

      • September 29th 2013 @ 2:32pm
        Australian Rules said | September 29th 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

        Um, ever heard of something called the salary cap Brendan..?

        • October 1st 2013 @ 9:06am
          Brendon the 1st said | October 1st 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          Port and other clubs can’t pay the full salary cap and that’s the point! Duh

          We didn’t want to lose Burgoyne and I can tell you North would have been spewin to lose those player.

          Port payed only 92% of its salary cap last year leaving it a couple of million behind Sydney and about a million behind Hawthorne, were not the only club with that problem.

          I stand by what I said, Hawthorne have stolen players using a broken AFL system, all power to them but it still sucks!

    • September 29th 2013 @ 10:52am
      Lroy said | September 29th 2013 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Yes, not sure I understand this “rich clubs cherry picking the talent” argument… the AFL has now banned the third party deals that allowed Judd to go to Carlton.. (thats right isnt it??)… so if all clubs have to work within the salary cap.. its all about list managment.

      The problem is this idiotic deal with the players union whereby guys who play for Melbourne (most of whom wouldnt get a game in the WAFL) get paid the same amount as guys playing for the top sides.

      How can you rebuild a list if you are forced to pay 92% of your salary cap to a bunch of dead beats?/ Surely clubs should be allowed to average the cap over a number of years to allow them to bring in new guys and dump underperformers??

      Melbourne have been so bad they should be on a “get paid if you win” payment plan. Seriously, this would stop tanking in a heartbeat.. should apply to the coaching staff as well.

    • September 29th 2013 @ 10:59am
      Dave said | September 29th 2013 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      OK, I’ll take the bait…

      If it was all about the money then these “stolen” players would have spent yesterday drinking in Bali with their GWS and GCS teammates instead of winning a flag with Hawthorn.

      North never got as much out of Gibson and Hale. Hale was playing for North Ballarat before he came to the Hawks. Gunston wanted to return to Victoria from the Crows who are hardly a struggling, poor club. Geelong did not want Simkin who has now won two premiership medals in a week. Port got picks 9 and 16 out of the Burgoyne deal so it was hardly a steal. And Lake took less money to chase a dream of winning a premiership and didn’t that pay off in spades.

      And the reason the Hawks have money is because they have been successful. They have a winning culture and winning means more members and more sponsorship.

      They also do a good job of developing their own players.

      • September 29th 2013 @ 11:59am
        Brendan said | September 29th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        Dave all you have said is correct.I support Geelong so the Hawks are hardly my second favourite team but credit must be given to them for there success.They have recruited well, positioning there training venue at Waverley was a very astute move (all Lake has to do is get on the Freeway to attend training) and got the most out of there list.They have now won as many flags in there time in the Afl/Vfl as any other team.

      • September 29th 2013 @ 2:09pm
        Jacques of Lilydale said | September 29th 2013 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        Yep to all of that

    • September 29th 2013 @ 1:47pm
      TW said | September 29th 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      The Dockers next year “should” win all of their home games at Subi and do very well on the road – They need to win at least 17 again or better to remain in the top 4.
      The unkown factor is injuries as per usual.
      As an Eagles supporter they surprised me with their level of support over here in Perth, which is good for the local game overall. Apparently 96 flights were organised out of Perth Thurs and Frid to move the fans to Melb. For the now at capacity anyhow Perth Airport in peak times that was a great effort.

    • September 29th 2013 @ 2:16pm
      Peter said | September 29th 2013 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

      Now the season is over and at the risk of being accused of sour grapes, can we now have a serious discussion about the quality of AFL umpiring. Maybe it is time to revisit the rules, but the inconsistency in interpretation, especially in being over the ball is a blight on the game. I understand the need to stop the game from moving from scrum to scrum but the players second to the pack now have learnt to block the ball in penalising the player over the ball.
      Especially on grand finals to have “random” holding the ball decisions inside 50 metres, when the player over the ball cannot move let alone attempt to get it out, leaves umpires open to ridicule and rightly so.
      Those paid handsomely to implement the rules should be sure of the indiscretion, otherwise call play on or bounce the ball.
      Time has come to ensure that the rules are concrete and understood by all,and not left open to indiscriminate “interpretation”, especially by the umpires.

      • October 1st 2013 @ 9:32am
        mark said | October 1st 2013 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        well said Pete .
        Whilst we have seen an improvement in some areas of umpiring , this one they get wrong more than they get right.
        I have no problem with them paying the decision any where on the ground . but the current trend of standing off the play does not allow them to skirt the pack and see the opposition pushing and holding the ball under the player.
        You can thank old fossils like Malthouse and Sheedy for their criticisms of umpiring for that being implemented by the umpires coaches.
        We need to get back to the umpires patrolling their zones like they did 3 or 4 years ago rather than being pushed out of the play and getting it wrong, and if an umpire occasionally gets caught up in the play , tough luck just get on with it.
        We also need to have a look at our recruiting of umpires and find a few that have a real feel for the game rather than recruiting them because they can run fast . The 2012-13 seasons have seen some absolute jokes running around getting paid big bucks to make pathetic decisions. The AFL needs to sort this out very soon

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