Janet Linn reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval, Perth
Hawthorn have returned to the Final Eight with a hard fought win against a valiant Fremantle Dockers team. Traveling interstate to Subiaco Oval for the Round 8 match against Fremantle, the Hawks came in with a defense seriously undermanned through injury. The Fremantle Dockers were coming off a morale-boosting three game winning streak and had the home advantage. Tipsters were divided in their predictions and Friday night football looked set to reward fans with an absolute beauty.
Chris Tarrant, the former Dockers forward reinvented this season as a backman, won the challenging role of guarding Hawks standout full forward Buddy Franklin. It was a tight start but the Hawks struck gold first, scoring quick goals from Chance Bateman and Stuart Dew. Matthew Pavlich was in good touch for the Dockers in the midfield and for the Hawks Jordan Lewis was in the thick of the action. Fremantle hit back to equalize through goals to Scott Thornton and Luke McPharlin. The standard of football was high with hard tackling a feature for both sides. After being well held by Tarrant, Franklin imposed his bulk late in the quarter to take a good mark and score his first goal. The Hawks took a six point lead into the quarter time break.
Goals were hard to come by in the early part of the second quarter but Fremantle hit the front after a strong Ryan Murphy mark and goal from the square. Cyril Rioli, in only his second year of AFL football, continues to dazzle fans and commentators alike. With his uncanny mixture of skill and magic, he controlled the ball beautifully along the boundary line and set up a Mark Williams goal. Franklin hit a purple patch and scored twice for the Hawks taking them to a 17 point lead and signaling danger for the Dockers. Again Rioli's work ethic set him apart from the crowd as he ran from one end to the other and scored a beautiful goal. The icing on the cake for the Hawks came from rookie Garry Moss who scooped the ball up after a stoppage, took a low snap on goal and put the visitors 30 points ahead at the major break.
It was a dream start to the third quarter for the Hawks when Fremantle defender Steven Dodd was caught holding the ball and Williams scored his second from the resultant free kick. Just when the Dockers looked gone, Michael Johnson took a terrific juggling mark in the square and converted on goal. Before the center bounce down could take place, Nick Suban was awarded a free kick in front of goal after a Hawthorn defender lost his cool and hit him illegally. Suban missed a very straightforward shot and a chance to bring Fremantle back into striking distance. The Fremantle shakiness in front of the big sticks was contagious with Johnson and McPharlin inexplicably missing sitters before McPharlin finally converted to narrow the gap to 22 points. The quarter had been dominated by Fremantle but Rioli popped up again to make something out of nothing and score a six pointer against the run of play. Fremantle scrambled forward and Murphy soccered a goal to repair the damage but every time the Dockers made up some ground, the Hawks found a way to get the answering score. When Michael Osborne kicked a goal from deep in the forward pocket on a very acute angle, it looked like goodnight for the Dockers but they refused to surrender. A late goal to Paul Duffield gave the Dockers some chance with a 22 point deficit going into the final quarter.
That the Dockers weren't done for was crystal clear in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. They defended the Hawks attacks ferociously and when Docker captain Pavlich bombed a magnificent long goal it seemed that the momentum had swung their way. Pavlich's efforts were inspirational but goals were elusive for Fremantle with Byron Schammer, Dean Solomon and Brett Peake all missing golden opportunities. Although the Fremantle endeavor was unquestionable, the Hawks steadied and had the experience when it counted to seal the game through goals to Jarryd Roughead and Buddy Franklin. The Hawks set up their win with an outstanding second quarter performance and were able to put enough pressure - physical and mental - on the Dockers to keep them from scoring goals when they needed them.
Hawthorn's win has put them back into contention as they move into 7th position on the AFL Ladder, equal to Carlton on points but with an inferior percentage. Essendon (8th) and Sydney (9th) are equal on points but below the Hawks on percentage. Fremantle are wallowing in 14th place but the competition is so even that only percentage separates them from the West Coast Eagles (10th), Collingwood (11th), Adelaide (12th) and North Melbourne (13th).
Next week's Indigenous Round may see the AFL Ladder gridlock ease. Hawthorn meets the lowly but recently competitive Melbourne, Fremantle plays North Melbourne in Melbourne and the Eagles come up against Collingwood at Subiaco Oval.
Scoreboard Hawthorn 3.2 8.4 11.6 13.9 (87) Fremantle 2.2 3.2 7.8 9.11 (65) Best players Hawthorn C Rioli, B McGlynn, B Sewell, S Mitchell, C Bateman, J Lewis Fremantle M Pavlich, P Duffield, M Johnson, C Tarrant, B Schammer, A Sandilands
Article last changed on Monday, May 18, 2009 - 10:20 AM EDT