Saturday 24 February 2018 / 08:40 PM

Finals: Hawks Only Side To Follow Script

What a weekend of finals!

After the Essendon debacle, which has sucked the momentum out of this season, it was football that finally dominated the weekend.

It was also a weekend in which the script was thrown out the window.

Only one favourite with the bookies and punters (Hawthorn) won on the weekend while Carlton, Port Adelaide and Fremantle gave a middle finger to those who doubted them.

Speaking of the Hawks, they are looking mighty fine.

While the match lacked the tenseness and excitement of the other three finals, there was still a lot to take out of the match.

After being level at half time, Hawthorn turned the game on its head scoring 11 goals to 3 after half time to completely overrun the premiers.

While commentators like to hark on about a lack of speed in the Hawthorn squad, that argument looks irrational when the likes of Hodge, Mitchell, Guerra and Roughead dispose of the ball in the manner they do.

Why worry about their lack of pace of 70m, when their pinpoint, precision kicking over the same distance splits defences wide open.

As for the Swans, it’s a case of injuries creating havoc.

While Lewis Jetta and Garry Rohan are back, injury has curtailed their season while the risk of bringing Adam Goodes back into the finals after such a long layoff rise by the day.

I still believe they are the best unit in the competition at their best, but they won’t be going back-to-back this season.

If Friday was predictable, Saturday was anarchic.

Prior to the match, there was so much talk about the Fremantle-Collingwood semi that was unfairly scheduled for the Friday afterwards.

By 10pm Saturday, the whole second week match-up had been turned on its head.

For Fremantle, they just did what they have done week-in, week-out this season.

It was a feisty match, which saw Fremantle mentally and physically dismantle Geelong through a combination of intimidation and fearlessness.

The Dockers strangled Geelong out of the contest, dominated the clearances (43-22) and out tackled the Cats on their home turf.  

How Ryan Crowley did not make the 40-man All Australian squad is an answer worthy of a Royal Commission.

The number one tagger dismantled Stevie Johnson and with that, the creativity of the Geelong forward line.

He also got under the skin of certain Cats players that may be a factor if they meet in the Grand Final.

While everyone is on the Hawks bandwagon, Fremantle in my opinion are now the premiership favourites.

Meanwhile up the highway, Port Adelaide ensured their Cinderella season goes on for another week.

$4.30 outsiders with the bookies, the Power played a style of football only a confidant squad can master.

Ridiculed for their backwards defensive game style under Matthew Primus the Ken Hinkley model has them attacking with gusto, taking risks and playing positive football.

In a great game, Collingwood challenged Port numerous times but the Power never faded and matched everything thrown at them.

Chad Wingard’s 19 disposals and 3 goals were crucial while Brad Ebert played his best game for Port collecting a tough 24 disposals.

Age shall not weary stalwart Kane Cornes whose game-high 28 disposals had remnants of his best football during their high-flying years in about 10 years ago.

As for Collingwood, they have serious issues.

Nathan Buckley talked about club culture but the fact is he and players do not have a good working relationship.

It comes at a time where serious decisions about older players like Alan Didak, Darren Jolly and Ben Hudson need to be made.

Collingwood have now gone from 1st in 2010 to 8th in 2013 when many pundits predicted they would control the league for a good 5-6 years.

A new attitude and some fresh talent are needed for next season at the Westpac Centre, while Buckley himself needs to rejuvenate a failing gameplan.

If there’s any consolation, Eddie McGuire’s issue with playing next week on a Friday has been solved.

On Sunday, traditional rivals Richmond and Carlton went toe-to-toe in front of 94,000 fans at the MCG.

Leigh Matthews observed on Channel Seven’s coverage that the atmosphere prior to the match was like a Grand Final and the contest lived up to that billing.

It was fast, tough and pulsating with the sentiment heavily in favour of a Tigers win after a dozen years of ineptitude.

It was sense of déjà vu with Richmond dominating the first half and leading comfortably before Carlton overpowered them in the second half.

Chris Judd had a season-best game with 25 disposals and a crucial goal in the final quarter while number one draft picks Murphy and Gibbs were instrumental in turning the contest in favour of the Blues.

While it was ecstasy for the Blues, it was sheer disappointment for the Tigers fans.

All goodwill and sympathy aside, it has been a wasted season for the Tigers who from 5th managed to lose to ninth.

While Damian Hardwick has many positives to take out of 2013, Richmond’s woeful second half is a reminder of the work needed to turn them into a quality side.

For me, the Tigers have players that are downhill skiers, players who can’t play their natural football when the game is on the line.

This loss will burn down at Punt Road over summer and I hope it drives them to do better.

As for next week, it shapes as a cracking second week of finals football.

Two sides have something to prove (Sydney, Geelong) while two have nothing to lose (Port Adelaide, Carlton).

Let’s hope these two contests match the intensity of last weekend.


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John Hunt

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