Friday 11th of September 2015
Words: Tiana Bergmans – Photography: Bruce Bergmans & Danielle Micalizzi
Eagles orchestrated an intimidating 32 point win in their qualifying final over the reigning premiers, Hawthorn, on Friday night at Domain Stadium. The Eagles have now earned a one week rest and have booked their first home preliminary final since their glory days in 2005.
The Eagles suffered a blow just before the game, losing Brownlow medalist and key player Matt Prides to a thigh injury. This however, didn’t stop them from applying intense pressure on Hawthorn. In fact, the Eagles kicked the first goal of the match, coming from Josh Hill. The Hawks however, were not to be outdone, producing goals from usual suspects Rioli and Gunston. Yeo also added to the Eagles’ scoreboard with a goal of his own. This still left the Eagles with a 1 point deficit, after a highly defensive and low scoring first term.
The Eagles came out firing in the second quarter, leaving the Hawks for dead! The home side went on a 5 goal rampage, 3 of which came from the gifted goal kicker, Josh Kennedy, with the other 2 coming from Sheppard and LeCras. The Hawks were left utterly bewildered, as were the 42,663 spectators at Domain Stadium. Hawthorn had no success on the scoreboard whatsoever, with one woeful behind for the quarter. The shocked Hawks were left trailing by 32 points at the main change, despite having playing a completely different brand of footy in the previous quarter. The Hawks were simply calamitous, with a kicking efficiency of only 49%, despite having the best average kicking efficiency in the AFL, of 69%.
After an early goal from Roughead, the Eagles continued their carnage of the Hawks in the third quarter. The Hawks just couldn’t seem to muster up the accuracy they required to translate their scoring shots into success on the scoreboard, leaving them to kick 5 behinds with only 2 goals in the 3rd term. The Eagles on the other hand, used the expertise of Hill, LeCras, Cripps (2 goals) and Darling, to put together a damaging bag of goals. The possibility of a great Hawks comeback, started to rapidly diminish in likelihood, with the Eagles up by a convincing 50 points.
Contrary to expectations, it was the Hawks that started the last quarter with a bang. The visitors outdid the Eagles within the starting minutes in both the uncontested possessions (17-4) and clearance (3-0). The Hawks looked more like their usual selves, with Roughead and Smith producing a goal each, whilst Burgoyne manufactured 2 stellar goals. The Eagles responded to Hawthorn’s reduction of the margin with Josh Hill booting his 3rd major, as well as Hutchings kicking his first of the match. Despite a late goal from the Hawthorn skipper, Luke Hodge, it was a case of too little too late for the depleted Hawks, which saw the Eagles soar comfortably into a home preliminary final.
Even with the high intensity and consistent pressure from the Eagles, there wasn’t anybody who finished with a particularly high disposal count. However, Hurn and Rosa finished off on a commendable 26 touches and Luke Shuey on 25. Their defensive pressure saw Cripps and Wellingham make 6 tackles each throughout the game.
The Hawks lost by an unexpectedly greater margin, their efforts were to be commended. Sam Mitchell gathered a game high 35 disposals, whilst teammates Shiels, Langford and Frawley were phenomenal in terms of tackling, making 23 tackles between them.
The Hawks will now play the winner of the Adelaide and Bulldogs game, in a sudden death final at the ‘G next week. Should the Hawks be successful, they will play the winner of the Freo and Sydney game, which will mean travelling to either Sydney or Perth, for a shot at a ticket to the Grand Final.
The Eagles now only have to win one more game in order to reach the grand final. This year its extra special for WA, because, should Freo also making it to the preliminary finals, Australia could potentially see its first ever WA derby grand final, an exciting prospect for the West.