Saturday, 3rd October 2015 – Words: Tiana Bergmans – Photography: Danielle Micalizzi
The Hawks were looking hot and extremely dangerous, as they sealed their third consecutive premiership in front of 98,663 people, after beating the Eagles by 46 points. The Hawks have now entered legendary status and have arguably become one of the greatest teams of the modern era.
The conditions at the home of football, the MCG were spectacular. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful 30 degrees, making it the hottest grand final on record.
The first quarter started off as an exciting contest, with Luke Shuey being the unlikely first goal scorer of the match. This goal gave the crowd immense excitement, lifting West Coast fans to their feet. But from then on, the Cyril show began and the Hawks were off to a flying start. Cyril was absolutely prolific in the forward 50, kicking two in the first quarter. McEvoy, Birchall and Hill also joined the party, leaving Hawthorn with a perfect 5.0 (30) at quarter time. The Eagles on the other hand, were kicking dismally, with only 1.5 (11) and a woeful scoring accuracy of 17%.
The second quarter didn’t look much better for the Eagles. The Hawks were simply on fire, booting 4 goals and only 3 behinds, whilst all the Eagles could muster was 2 goals and three behinds. Gunston was warmly welcomed back from an ankle injury, which occurred in the qualifying final, coincidentally also against West Coast. He had a sensational quarter, kicking 2.1 for the Hawks. This success would have only hurt more for Billy Hartung – Hawthorn’s hard luck story of the day. Hartung, despite being a promising young Hawk, lost his place in the selected side to make way for the returning Gunston.
Many of the star Eagles were kept very quiet in this quarter. By around the 20 minute mark, Naitanui, Ellis, Masten and Darling had still failed to achieve a successful disposal. Despite Hawthorn’s exceptional ability to shut down West Coast’s plays, the boys from the West only had a deficit of 31 points. Whilst it was not ideal, they were still firmly in the game, with another half to make up 6 goals to take the lead.
The beginning of the 3rd quarter looked promising for West Coast and ignited hope within the countless Eagles supporters who had made a very expensive pilgrimage to Melbourne. Jack Darling scored the opening goal, which combined with an earlier rushed behind, cut the margin back to manageable 4 goals. Suddenly, an Eagles come back wasn’t so unlikely.
The Hawks however, had something else in mind and quickly stomped all over any hope the Eagles had. Hawthorn went on a 5 goal rampage, orchestrating a carnage of the Eagles. Gunston was all class, kicking another 2. Schoenmakers, Smith and Suckling all booted sensational goals, helping the Hawks to close the quarter with a comfortable 50 point lead.
Hawthorn were simply too efficient in the third quarter. They had 51 more disposals and 13 more contested possessions. In fact, they recorded 2 fewer inside 50’s than the Eagles, yet they won the quarter by 19 points. The Eagles were simply making too many costly mistakes when they won the ball. Their inability to convert severely cost them on the scoreboard, leaving them to play out the last quarter for pride.
The final quarter was the scrappiest of them all, completely littered with terrible behinds from both sides. 10 behinds were kicked this quarter, highly disappointing for a grand final. The quarter started with a behind from LeCras, followed by goals from Roughead and Smith. It was then that a string of behinds commenced, to the tune of 7 behinds in a row. The Eagles at least, were able to finish the game on a somewhat high, by kicking the last 3 goals. LeCras kicked one and McGovern finished the game off in style, with two stellar goals. But he knew this wasn’t enough, as his face was plagued by despair, irrespective of his two excellent goals.
Cyril Rioli was nothing less that sensational, with 2 goals, 18 disposals and 11 score involvements. Hence, it was only fitting that he was awarded the Norm Smith Medal. Fellow Norm Smith contender, Sam Mitchell was damaging in the midfield as usual, gathering 34 disposals. Gunston’s boot was potent, kicking 4 majors, proving that he was a worthwhile inclusion. Jordan Lewis also had an outstanding game, with 26 disposals and 5 tackles. The skipper, Luke Hodge, who has now won 4 premierships and 2 Norm Smith Medals lead his team very well, with 30 disposals and a goal. In defence, James Frawley was absolutely phenomenal! Keeping West Coast powerhouse and Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy goalless, with a mere 9 touches.
Despite the loss, which was littered with many crucial mistakes, there were some fantastic efforts made by the Eagles. Gaff equalled Sam Mitchell, finishing with 34 disposals for the game. After a slow start, 2014 Brownlow Medalist, Matt Priddis, had 25 possessions and made 7 tackles, which were pivotal given that they were playing such a high intensity side. McGovern finished off the game nicely, with 2 goals, being the only multiple goal kicker for the Eagles. Unfortunately, these pleasing statistics were offset by an overall very disappointing performance from the Eagles
The Eagles are to be commended on an awesome season. They made it to the Grand Final, after being written off by many critics at the beginning of the year, who didn’t even put them finishing in the top 8, let alone 2nd.
The Hawks are in a class of their own, becoming one of the most successful teams of the modern era. Very few teams have experienced the glory of achieving 3 consecutive premierships. The last team to do this before the Hawks were the Brisbane Lions, back in 2001-2003.
Yet again, the coveted cup will remain in Victoria, leaving the two West Australian teams to only dream of what could have been. This season proved that you cannot write any team off, and that finishing 1st and 2nd doesn’t guarantee a grand final berth, nor does it secure a win.