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With Fremantle docked, Hawthorn turn to Swan hunting

Expert
12th July, 2015
99
2319 Reads

Well that wasn’t the AFL grand final preview it was supposed to be. Sydney, it’s your turn.

Sunday’s fixture against Hawthorn was an acid test for the high-flying Fremantle Dockers. Despite a 12-1 record, and already some impressive performances in 2015, this was the biggest challenge for the Purple People and they returned to Perth from Tasmania humiliated.

While they still hold top spot on the ladder, they are by no means the best team in the competition.

Yesterday you could almost hear the alarm bells from the mainland as the concerns over the Dockers’ ability to score became reality as they struggled aimlessly at times to break through the Hawthorn back six.

And at the other end they had no answer for a Hawthorn attack missing their main man, Jarryd Roughhead.

Ross Lyon must take a closer look at how his team can possibly match it with the Hawks next time they meet, most likely in September.

And having looked all season to be a lock for top spot and with it the home ground advantage through to a grand final appearance, the reality is there is also now a question mark over a top two finish.

Chances are they will still make it. Their nearest two chasing teams, West Coast and Sydney, are just a game behind and hold better percentage, but have to play each other in two weeks’ time.

Hawthorn are two wins behind, but charging. The Dockers have a good run home with two – possibly three – difficult matches, against West Coast, Richmond and then in the final round against Port in Adelaide.

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If they do drop those three though, they won’t be in the top two.

So, now that the Dockers are ticked off it’s onto the Swans for the Hawks. Will this be a grand final preview?

That’s the question after Hawthorn’s clinical display against Fremantle, which sees them head to Sydney looking for some revenge for their Round 8 loss at the MCG.

And judging by the performances of the two sides yesterday – Sydney slogging their way to a 21-point victory over lowly Brisbane – the Hawks are likely to be fancied to add another notch to their belt.

I honestly still don’t know what to make of the Swans. They have on occasions looked great, just as they did when they beat Hawthorn earlier this year.

But they have more often than not looked scratchy, and their defence has not looked anywhere near as confident and fluent as it did last season.

But another thing is that the Swans have a tendency to turn up for big games (OK, let’s forget about last year’s grand final). They get up for the big clashes against the big opponents on their home soil, and surely Buddy Franklin is overdue for a massive game.

I love the way the Swans play when they are questioned and they will again be questioned this week.

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The Hawks, winners of six straight since losing to the Swans in May, have gone up slight favourites at $1.80 with the TAB, and personally I’d be all over that.

At the moment I just think that they are clearly the best team in the competition. That may not be the case come the first week in October, but with Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne, Grant Birchall, Josh Gibson, and Luke Breust – to name just a few – all running into superb form, I wouldn’t be stunned if the Hawks went into the finals with another eight wins, and on a streak of 14 successive victories.