It hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would, when all those weeks ago I declared Hawthorn were virtually good things to win the AFL premiership. But here we are at grand final week, and guess what? I still think Hawthorn are good things to win the flag.
I know what the bookmakers are saying, that there is not much in this one. I also have a clear memory of what happened just a few short weeks ago when the West Coast Eagles gave Hawthorn a five-goal touch-up in the qualifying final.
And I’m the first to admit that you truly have to admire what Adam Simpson and his team have achieved this season, not too many apart from their faithful would have remotely considered they would end up where they will be next Saturday.
And it hasn’t been done with luck or great injury management or a favourable draw, they have been a consistent performer all year, have squatted inside the top two for much of it, and thoroughly deserve their place in the decider.
But this game won’t be played at Domain Stadium, and it will be against a team who won’t be ambushed this time around. A team which, despite some saying they are reaching the end of their run, still knows what it takes to win on the last Saturday in September – or in this instance the first Saturday in October.
It was interesting to note some of the comments that Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson had to say about the loss to the Eagles after they qualified for their fourth straight grand final.
“Our preparation for the game in terms of our tactics, the mindset of our playing group, that resilience that we demonstrated tonight, and demonstrated in the Adelaide final last week – for some reason, we didn’t have that in the West Coast game,” Clarkson said after they qualified for a shot at a three-peat with an emphatic win over Fremantle.
“It was slippery that night and we slipped, we had the wrong footwear. We just didn’t prepare for the shape of the oval very well. We did all those things a hell of a lot better this week.”
And now they are back in non-slippery conditions with the forecast for mid-20s, and on a ground they have called their own for the past few seasons.
The Hawks have won 29 of 36 matches played at the MCG since they lost the 2012 grand final to the Swans. In that same period they have also won all seven finals matches on the home of football.
But that’s not the only reason why they will win. It is more about the loss to the Eagles in the qualifying final being the loss they needed to have.
The interesting line from Clarkson was the one mentioning the “the mindset of our playing group”. I’m wondering if the Hawks players had started believing their own press, that despite not finishing top two, they would still head West, beat ‘the other’ Perth team, and take the next step to setting up a grand final showdown with the team from Perth most expected to be here, the Dockers.
Well, hasn’t that worked out well?
The Hawks know how to turn up on grand final day, and will terrorise any side that either has a little stage fright and is nervous, or one that doesn’t turn up from the opening bounce – just ask Sydney what happened last season.
Are the Hawks as good as they were last season? Well, midway through the year I would have said yes. Perhaps now I might say possibly not.
Are they – having won the past two flags – as hungry as the boys from Perth for a premiership? Maybe not? Maybe the appetite of the success starved Eagles playing group is greater.
Are Hawthorn, on their day, at their 2015 peak, the best team playing next Saturday? Yes.
That’s all I can go on right now, that both teams turn up at their best. And if that happens, not only will it be a great grand final, but it will be three premierships in succession for the Hawks.