Saturday afternoon had the SCG hosting the match of the round this week, as the footy world had the rare privilege of witnessing a first versus second clash on the eve of the finals. With both sides looking to sure up home ground advantage for September, the attack on the man and the ball had all of the intensity of a final from the opening bounce.
The high pressure and contested style of footy suited the Swans to a tee in the first quarter, completely negating the Hawks natural game plan of controlling the ball. Craig Bird held Sam Mitchell to just three possessions, as John Longmire exposed Hawthorn’s lack of height in defence by starting Adam Goodes, Lewis Roberts-Thompson, Sam Reid and Mike Pyke inside the forward 50.
Josh Kennedy and Daniel Hannerbury were dominating in the clinches as the Swans led the contested possession count 54 to 39 at quarter time, resulting in 18 to 9 inside 50 count and a 26 point lead.
In the second quarter the intensity remained, although the game began to open up as the quarter progressed. Reid and Mumford continued to expose Hawthorn’s lack of tall defenders, and seven minutes in, Isaac Smith finally landed Hawthorn their first goal of the evening. It would be the first of a seven goal quarter for the Hawks, as their midfield led by Shaun Burgoyne began to adapt to the speed of the game and find space.
Lance Franklin after being beaten in several contests by Ted Richards in the first quarter also found another gear, kicking three goals as the Hawks completely turned the match around to be level until Nick Malceski goaled just before the main break.
In the second half the Hawks picked up there they left off, with goals to Paul Puopolo and Liam Shiels early on. The Swans responded with goals to Roberts-Thompson and Goodes, both once again courtesy of marks against significantly shorter opponents.
The footy remained hot throughout the third as Gunston snapped truly, and the stage was set for an epic at three quarter time with the Hawks leading by just four points.
It was hard to imagine it being possible at the time, but if anything the intensity actually lifted in the last quarter. If anyone had any doubts that either of these sides were genuine premiership contenders leading into this clash, all doubts surely must have been removed as the quarter progressed.
Kennedy somehow lifted a gear and his inside work was as good as it gets. Heath Grundy repelled attack after attack, and Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell were at their uncompromising best.
With just over 2 minutes to go the game had risen to standards worthy of being called the game of the year. The Hawks led by a point….and then the game exploded.
With every kick seemingly under impossible pressure, Ryan O’Keefe somehow found a way to kick an exceptional goal from the pocket to give the Swans the lead. From the clearance the Hawks surged forward which led to Luke Hodge finding Burgoyne 35 metres out. A pressure set shot on goal if there ever was one, and Burgoyne delivered to once again give the Hawks the lead.
With one and a half minutes remaining the Hawks again won the centre clearance, this time resulting in Sewell launching a long bomb for a goal to finally decide this epic contest.
By the time the final siren sounded, the standard of footy from both sides was more than worthy of being labelled the game of the year. More accurately, this was a classic. Both sides were brilliant in what turned out to be a more than memorable seven point victory to the Hawks.
3 – Josh Kennedy
2 – Shaun Burgoyne
1 – Jordan Lewis
Sydney Swans: Goodes, Mumford, O’Keefe, Reid 2, Jack, Kennedy,
Malceski, McGlynn, McVeigh, Roberts-Thomson
Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Burgoyne 3, Suckling, Puopolo 2, Gunston,
Sewell, Shiels, Smith
Sydney Swans: O’Keefe, Goodes, Richards, Kennedy, Hannebery, Grundy
Hawthorn: Burgoyne, Lewis, Birchall Franklin, Hodge, Young, Sewell
Sydney Swans: TBC
Sydney Swans: Lewis Roberts-Thomson replaced by Mitch Morton at
Hawthorn: Brendan Whitecross replaced by Xavier Ellis in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Donlon, McBurney, Margetts
Official crowd: 31,167 at SCG