Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Subiaco Oval
In the second Elimination Final, the Hawthorn Hawks traveled west to take on the Fremantle Dockers. Paul Hasleby, who announced his retirement effective from the end of the season, was a surprise omission from the side. Fremantle had decided on youth and vigor over Hasleby’s Finals' experience. A few weeks earlier, these two teams played in Tasmania where the Hawks humiliated the Dockers in one of the biggest thrashings of the season. Although Fremantle had rested their top ten players for that game in preparation for this occasion, there should have been a psychological edge for the Hawks after that encounter
Missed opportunities for both teams in the first part of the game resulted in points when goals were both needed and kickable. It took 15 minutes of play until Greg Broughton stood up and kicked the first goal for the Dockers. With the majority of the possessions, the home team looked menacing. Adam McPhee made a poor choice from a long way out, electing to take a marginal shot on goal instead of centering the ball to big Aaron Sandilands at the top of the square. Hawthorn looked out of sorts and it wasn’t until deep into the first quarter that Buddy Franklin kicked their first goal from right in front with a good read of the ball as it went over a pack. This gave the Hawks some impetus to lift their work rate and they started to look like the team that beat the Premiership favorites Collingwood last week.
Coupled with some poor disposal and basic kicking errors by the Dockers, the Hawks were poised to put their stamp on the game if they could only make the most of their opportunities. Against the run of play, Anthony Morabito took off from the wing and ran 60 meters to slot home a telling goal for the home team. Morabito was aided by a monster shepherd from Sandilands, who flattened the Hawk player chasing just as he was closing in to tackle. Sandilands kicked a major of his own soon after when he was awarded a free kick in a ruck contest. When Chris Mayne marked at the back of a pack and booted a goal, the Dockers were on a roll and led by 17 points at the end of the first quarter.
Hawthorn went on the back foot and if not for the steady work in defense by Luke Hodge and good midfield work by Shaun Burgoyne and Sam Mitchell, the margin would have been greater. Towards the end of the first quarter, Sandilands injured his knee in a clash with opposing ruckman Wayde Skipper. Fremantle took no chances and moved Michael Johnson into the ruck and Sandilands to full forward. The game was much more static in this quarter, a slow affair with poor skills on display. The Hawks looked sluggish and in contrast the Dockers started to get on top with more aggressive play. Michael Walters, a newcomer to the Dockers already making his presence known, took a sensational mark and goaled from a David Mundy pass.
Matthew Pavlich finally got the monkey off his back with a snap on goal from 50 meters out to take the Dockers to a four goal lead. At this point Hawthorn was down two men. Cyril Rioli had pulled a hamstring and was sitting with ice on his leg in the dugout and Xavier Ellis was in the medical rooms after severely twisting his right ankle. For a club that relies heavily on rotations through the bench to keep up their fast pace, this was a major setback. With substandard goal kicking - only one in a quarter and a half of football - added to the mix, the Hawks were not looking good. Jarryd Roughead gave supporters some hope when he earned a free kick in front of goals but he sprayed the kick wide and barely scraped it through for a point. Hawthorn had kicked their lowest ever half time score in a Final, a meager 17 points, an ignominious record in the history of the club. They trailed the Dockers by 23 points.
Johnson again started in the ruck in the third term and it wasn’t long before the Dockers had a stranglehold on the game. The silky skills of Stephen Hill were on display when he twice took possession of the ball and ran through the lines for shots on goal. The first time he elected to kick on goal - and miss - rather than pass the ball to Sandilands at the top of the square. The next time he was more accurate and suddenly the game looked all over. A Ryan Crowley free kick resulted in another goal much to the delight of the home crowd who started to chant the “Fre-o … Fre-o …” victory cry. Consecutive goals to Buddy Franklin and Roughhead had fans less enthusiastic as memories of the “Freo fade” scenarios of past matches reared their head. McPhee steadied the Freo ship with a snap and goal from a ruck contest on the forward line and from there on in, Fremantle had no doubts. Pavlich and Mundy converted chances to give the home side the biggest lead of the match, 42 points. Although it would be very difficult for the Hawks to climb back from this deficit, coach Alistar Clarkson was not throwing in the towel. He moved Franklin into the center to free him from the vice-like grip of dogged Docker defender Luke McPharlin, who had effectively shut him out of the game.
Hawthorn scored first in the final quarter when Roughead converted from a free kick in the goal square. The subsequent center bounce saw a slick move from Dockers ruckman Johnson. He tapped the ball to Mundy who passed neatly to Matt DeBoer in front of goals. DeBoer, although courageous and hard at the ball, is a woeful set shot and he failed to make the most of his opportunity, kicking a point. Brendan Whitecross sprinted 70 meters to be on the end of a pass from Clinton Young and he scored the next goal for the Hawks. When Rick Ladson drilled a clever goal from deep in the left pocket, the nervous frisson that had previously passed through the home crowd returned. Chris Mayne scored a goal from 30 meters out after marking a pass from Nathan Fyfe to settle the Dockers. Roger Hayden, who was having a very ordinary day on the halfback line, kicked poorly in the latter part of the game to give Roughead a mark and goal. Alex Silvagni sealed the game for the Dockers when he marked and scored a goal with minutes left to play. The faithful purple haze stayed well after the siren to cheer their team off the ground.
Fremantle now move into the second semi-final to take on the Geelong Cats. Although they defeated the Cats in their last encounter, it will be an away game and the Dockers will start very much the underdogs against the reigning Premiers. The soon to be retired Paul Hasleby, dressed in a suit and tie after not being picked to play, gave a half time address to the home fans and did a lap of honor around the ground to a standing ovation. It was his last appearance at Subiaco Oval although he may still be in contention for selection next week if the Dockers injury list is big. For the Hawks, it was a bitter end to a season which had been on the upturn for much of the latter part of the year. They are left to ponder whether their year was a success or a failure.
Scoreboard Fremantle: 4.3 6.4 12.7 14.10 (94) Hawthorn: 1.4 1.11 4.13 8.6 (64) Best players: Fremantle: D Mundy, C Mayne, L McPharlin, A McPhee, M Pavlich Hawthorn: L Hodge, S Mitchell, S Burgoyne, J Roughead, J Gibson
Article last changed on Monday, May 28, 2018 - 5:36 PM EDT