Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick reporting for AFANA from Australia
A bumper crowd of over 85,000 flooded into the MCG for the Friday night Qualifying Final between Premiership favorite Hawthorn and last season’s runner up, Collingwood. The Hawks were dealt a blow with the late withdrawal of prime mover Jordan Lewis who suffered a hamstring “twinge” at training on the eve of the big game. Shane Savage came into the Hawthorn side at the expense of Lewis while Collingwood added Ben Sinclair for the omitted Jackson Paine. A heavy rain shower just prior to the commencement of proceedings added to the drama, with Collingwood’s Chris Tarrant making his intentions clear as he immediately charged into the Hawk’s Lance Franklin, roughing him up in an attempt to get the League’s best forward off his game.
The contest was fierce early with no space allowed by either team for the midfielders to break free. Spectators could have been excused for thinking the clock had been turned back 10 years as hard, tough, one on one footy was once again the norm, rather than the exception. Seven minutes in and Hawthorn copped a massive injury scare as Brendan Whitecross went down with a knee injury that would later be confirmed as a season-ending torn ACL. The savage blow coincidentally brought Shane Savage on as the substitute for Hawthorn, much earlier than he or the Hawks' brains trust would have anticipated. Tight, contested footy continued until the 17 minute mark when Hawthorn Captain Luke Hodge blocked his way through a pack and converted the first goal of the match. From then on, the game loosened up and Collingwood had the reply through Sharrod Wellingham just a couple of minutes later. Sinclair put the Magpies in front until the sizzling Cyril Rioli answered for the Hawks. At the 24 minute mark, Lance “Buddy” Franklin looked to be caught holding the ball but the umpire let play continue. Luke Breust seized the opportunity to goal for the Hawks before substitute Savage bombed a beauty from the boundary line a minute before siren time. At the first break, Hawthorn held a handy 15 point lead.
Hawthorn continued to attack in the second quarter and it was Jack Gunston who drew first blood for his team. The much maligned Travis Cloke kicked truly to keep the Pies in the game, before Andy Krakouer goaled after another nice piece of work from Cloke. The margin was back to nine points as Collingwood switched to a shorter possession based style to stifle the Hawks' run. Super Sub Savage was at it again for Hawthorn with his second goal of the night to extend the lead but Wellingham replied for the stubborn Magpies. At the 21 minute mark Heath Shaw, moved forward in an attempt to get more forward movement, took an excellent contested mark before finishing his work with a goal that reduced the Hawk lead to just five points. In a gripping contest, it was X factor Krakouer putting Collingwood in front as the first half wound down. As had been the story on many occasions this season, just when an opposition team seemed to have the Hawks on the ropes, they responded with a bang. Isaac Smith goaled, then a controversial free kick to David Hale gave the Hawks two in a row. With time ticking away, it was the mercurial Franklin who goaled right on the half time siren to extend the Hawthorn lead to an even three goals. In the blink of an eye, the Hawks had exerted their authority in an excellent game of Finals footy.
Hawthorn extended their lead in the third term with an early goal to Hale from a free kick well off the ball. Cloke replied for Collingwood and the Magpies were desperate to get the next to peg the Hawks advantage back. It wasn’t to be as Breust notched another Hawk goal at the seven minute mark. The trading of goals continued with a rare Chris Dawes' possession and goal but the sequence was broken when Paul Puopolo and Rioli notched back to back six pointers for a five goal Hawthorn lead. Whatever the Magpies threw at them, Hawthorn had the answers. At the 16 minute mark Krakouer stood up again for the Magpies to goal after a 50 meter penalty, but the Hawks would not be denied. Franklin and Gunston banged two more through for Hawthorn and the Collingwood challenge looked to be snuffed out. An off the ball clash between Collingwood skipper Maxwell and the Hawthorn's Puopolo left the Hawk with blood streaming from his nose, an incident that was looked at by the Match Review Panel during the week and resulted in a two week suspension. Cloke kicked his third goal at the 21 minute mark, then it was end to end as each team desperately struggled to convert. In the dying seconds of the quarter, it was Cloke again, kicking his fourth to bring the three quarter time margin back to 24 points. The Hawks didn’t look likely to relinquish the lead to a desperate Collingwood, but at least the game was still well and truly alive.
Collingwood fans knew that an early Magpie goal was imperative if they were any chance to win against the well drilled Hawks. Just three minutes in, it was Xavier Ellis sneaking one off the ground to extend the Hawk lead and break the Magpie spirit. Roughead, Hodge and Franklin went bang, bang, bang for three more and the Collingwood resistance was smashed. Mitchell and Sewell put on a midfield clinic as the Hawks made a very loud statement to the rest of the Finalists. Cloke continued to battle with his 5th and 6th goals of the match and the busy Krakouer added another for the Magpies. When the siren sounded and the Brown and Yellow clad fans started to bellow the Hawthorn team song with gusto, the scoreboard showed an emphatic 38 point victory to the Hawks.
Hawthorn Coach Alistair Clarkson would be over the moon with the stellar form of his team going into a week off before a Preliminary Final against the winner of the Adelaide Crows Fremantle Dockers Semi Final. Clarkson should also have Jordan Lewis and possibly Brent Guerra to inject into a team that looks like the team to beat in this year’s Finals series. For Nathan Buckley’s Collingwood, a tough task awaits against a West Coast Eagles outfit that obliterated North Melbourne in Sunday’s Elimination final. Not only do Buckley’s men have to face Cox, Naitanui and an improving Josh Kennedy, they will have to do it without Captain Nick Maxwell after the incident with Paul Puopolo. Either way, both Finals next weekend should be absolute crackers as more awesome AFL Finals await.
Scoreboard Hawthorn: 4.6 9.10 15.13 20.15 (135) Collingwood: 2.3 7.4 12.7 15.7 (97) Best Players Hawthorn: Sewell, Mitchell, Hodge, Gibson, Rioli, Breust Collingwood: Cloke, Reid, Pendlebury, Krakouer, Swan
Article last changed on Monday, September 17, 2012 - 9:37 AM EDT