Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 AFL Grand Final: Hawthorn vs. Fremantle



"What curse?'' The man who subjected his club to five years of torment consigned the Kennett curse to history on Saturday morning.
Jeff Kennett, the former Hawthorn president and Victorian premier, cut a tortured figure at the MCG on Friday night as the Hawks overcame a 20-point deficit at three-quarter-time to beat the Cats by five.
For all the protestations that this plague on the house of Hawthorn was a figment of the media's imagination, Alastair Clarkson and Luke Hodge and their team could have done without it.
Kennett fatefully told the ABC's Offsiders show after Hawthorn's 2008 grand final triumph over the Cats: ''What they don't have, I think, is the quality of some of our players; they don't have the psychological drive we have. We've beaten Geelong when it matters.''
The Cats made a pact never to lose to Hawthorn again. Incidentally, the man who made the pact public, Paul Chapman, still has not lost to the Hawks as he missed the preliminary final.
With the hoodoo buried, thanks to a rampant performance from Sam Mitchell and late goals from Bradley Hill, Jack Gunston and Shaun Burgoyne, Kennett could finally declare the curse ''done and dusted''.
''It was probably a silly comment at the time that developed legs,'' Kennett said on ABC Radio on Saturday. ''I think I said at the time that we're always there in games when it mattered, and the ones we lost along the way were only foreplay. Last night was a serious game. The comments I made after our success in '08 have developed a life of their own.''
He was unrepentant. ''It's added colour to the game and added colour to the competition. It's now, in terms of its intent gone, and it will be absent from future clashes between these two wonderful clubs and that is highly appropriate.''
Hodge has never believed in a curse - ''We believe Geelong have been too good for us in the past'' - but expressed a simple wish for grand final week. ''I think everyone is hoping Jeff does keep quiet.''
Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold said he had always had belief in his players.
Newbold took over the presidency two years ago from Kennett, but after the win, when asked if he planned to speak to Kennett, Newbold smiled and replied: ''I never acknowledged the curse. That's you blokes [media], so you'd better call him, not me.''
Newbold admitted he felt flat at three-quarter-time, when Geelong had a game-high lead of 20 points, but the last quarter capped off an all-time great AFL final.
''How gutsy the boys were, that was right up there,'' he said. ''You win games sometimes when you play pretty football - we didn't play pretty football today. But it was outstanding just in terms of our endeavour and basically just not giving up.
''Eventually Geelong succumbed and we put our noses in front.
''Today's not the scalp - next week's the scalp,'' Newbold said. ''As a club, obviously, [there's] a lot of emotion winning a close game like that. But it's quickly refocusing on the job that has to be done next week. There's no use getting too excited this week.''

Hawthorn players have every right to be nervous after Fremantle produced one of the best halves of pressure football to beat Sydney by 25 points in Saturday night's preliminary final at Patersons Stadium.
The Dockers booted five unanswered goals in the second quarter to set up the 14.15 (99) to 11.8 (74) win, with the triumph booking their place in next Saturday's AFL grand final against Hawthorn.
The only concerns for Fremantle are the fitness of defenders Luke McPharlin (adductor) and Michael Johnson (calf).
Sydney has built its reputation on their ability to thrive in the tight, uncompromising clinches of finals football 
But it looked a shadow of the unit that won last year's flag, with Fremantle's unrelenting pressure proving the difference in the first half.
The second term was particularly brutal as Sydney struggled to even gain possession of the ball.
When the Swans did get their rare chances, they turned the ball over more often than not.
If it wasn't actual pressure forcing turnovers, it was inferred pressure.
Such was Fremantle's dominance, it took Sydney 28 minutes to have its first disposal inside its forward-50m for the term.
Even that came to nothing, with Jesse White spraying his 48m set shot.
By contrast, the Dockers booted 5.1 for the quarter as they dominated every facet of the game.
The first term was a similar tale - except for Fremantle's finishing.
The Dockers booted a wayward 2.6 from set shots as Matthew Pavlich, Michael Walters, Chris Mayne and Hayden Ballantyne all missed shots they would normally nail.
The 43,249 sellout crowd roared its approval as Fremantle headed into the half-time break with a commanding 39-point lead.
Sydney launched a mini fightback early in the third term, booting three of the first five goals as Fremantle displayed some nerves for the first time in the match.
That was best illustrated by forward Mayne, who was all alone in the goalsquare when he dropped a simple chest mark and fumbled the ball over the line.
But substitute Lachie Neale eased any fears of a choke when he sold the dummy to a Swans defender before drilling a running goal from 40m.
And when Nat Fyfe nailed a goal a minute later, it was game over as Fremantle went into three-quarter time with a 43-point lead.
"It's what we play for to get to this position," Fremantle skipper Pavlich said.
"It's something special. It's something to soak up right now. We'll enjoy the victory for five minutes.
"It's taken a lot of hard work to get to this point."
The Swans added some respectability to the scoreboard with a six-goal final quarter, but that was all in junk time when the game was over.
Sydney's star-studded midfield was supposed to be their strength.
But it was Fremantle's on-ballers who shone, with David Mundy and Fyfe starring.
Michael Walters did the damage up forward with three goals, while Pavlich was influential early.
All-Australian Swans midfielder Kieren Jack was held to just 11 possessions by master tagger Ryan Crowley, who tallied 22 disposals himself and also kicked a goal.
Sydney had few winners on the park.
In the end, their heavy injury toll caught up with them.
With no Adam Goodes, Sam Reid, Kurt Tippett, Rhyce Shaw and Tom Mitchell to call upon, the Swans had no answers to Fremantle's onslaught.
Fremantle's 19-year history has been littered with disappointment and failure.
But Ross Lyon has inspired a cultural shift since taking over as coach two years ago.
In yesteryear, success was craved.
Now it's expected.
Hawthorn had to fight hard to get over Geelong by five points in Friday night's preliminary final.
But they're going to have to produce something even better if they are to win their first flag since 2008.
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