By Justin Lemmon
On a record breaking day it wasn’t just Melbourne that cranked up the heat but Hawthorn also – melting away any semblance of Eagle’s resistance on their way to a third straight premiership.
Now ranked firmly amongst the all-time immortal sides, Hawthorn could hardly have expected a more polished performance. In a Grand Final that so closely resembled last year’s domination of Sydney, the Hawks wrestled the momentum in an even first quarter and seldom surrendered it for the final three. The 46 point margin flattered West Coast who could not be accused of firing blanks but rather failed to even remove their gun from its holster.
Despite having winners on every line it was Norm Smith medallist Cyril Rioli who was the catalyst – few players could claim to have had such an influence on a contest with just 18 disposals. Rioli was more enabler than artist, each touch setting something up for a teammate to finish. He may have kicked two scene-setting goals in the first term but the real magic was in setting up four others.
That is not to say Rioli didn’t have a raft of starring team-mates. Sam Mitchell could hardly have been more precise and on any other day would have had a Norm Smith around his neck. Jack Gunston and Isaac Smith proved why coach Alastair Clarkson was so keen to secure their return from injury while high price recruit James Frawley was a rock in the back half.
For the Eagles and coach Adam Simpson, the biggest disappointment would have been how soundly they were dismantled in areas in which they should have held an advantage. Nic Naitanui was always going to be key as the most talented ruckman on show and while he may have dominated the hit-outs, his return of four disposals was the least of any player to have finished the game. Similarly, Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy was blanketed by the under scrutiny Frawley and failed to hit the scoreboard in any form.
West Coast were not the first team, and will not be the last to be dismantled by one of the greatest sides ever compiled. Their win over the Hawks in the first week of the finals was turned on its head. On the big stage, they were the side under complete pressure, lacking composure and played into the Hawks waiting hands.
The discussion now switches to where this Hawthorn side rank among the greatest of not only this, but all eras . On yesterday’s viewing, it’s hard to put them anywhere except from the top of the pile.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia