Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson admits his side must lift in AFL finals if they’re to capture a record-equalling fourth straight premiership.
The Hawks recorded a dramatic one-point victory over Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday, when they needed a win or draw to secure a top-four spot.
They ticked it off in unconvincing fashion and will now face rivals Geelong in a qualifying final, having beaten the Magpies 17.10 (112) to 17.9 (111).
Collingwood, who were a man down in the second half following James Aish’s hamstring injury, booted four consecutive goals to hit the front with a tick under three minutes remaining.
Jack Fitzpatrick, called into the Hawks’ side following ruckman Jon Ceglar’s season-ending knee injury, was the unlikely hero.
Fitzpatrick, playing his first game for the club, burst through the middle and unloaded a bomb from over 55 metres out to level the scores before Paul Puopolo put the Hawks in front.
Clarkson was relieved to seal a coveted double chance in finals but unhappy with many elements of the performance, particularly the ease at which Collingwood scored.
“We don’t like giving up 17 goals and it’s not very often you win a game when you do,” Clarkson said.
“So we were a bit lucky in that sense. It was a pretty open, free-flowing game – great for the fans but not so good for the heart rate of coaches.
“They (Geelong) were pretty impressive on Saturday. We’ll have to play a bit better than we did today if we’re going to (win).”
It was the sixth time this year Hawthorn have won by nine points or less.
“Once again the spirit of our group and resilience to just hang tough in the last five minutes and find a way to win was really important,” Clarkson said.
“It was pretty frantic.”
The Hawks trailed by 16 points in the second quarter and were outplayed for much of the contest.
Small forwards Cyril Rioli and Luke Breust led a spirited comeback and a snapped goal from veteran Jordan Lewis gave Hawthorn a 12-point buffer at three-quarter time.
The Magpies continued to fight in front of a crowd of 52,968, levelling the scores early in the fourth term.
The Hawks steadied thanks to clutch goals from James Sicily, Billy Hartung and Shaun Burgoyne, only for Collingwood to rally again.
Josh Gibson could be scrutinised for a clumsy spoil on Levi Greenwood in the second quarter but AFL legend Wayne Carey expected the Hawks defender would be cleared by the match review panel.
“That’s no worse than Rory Sloane (who was suspended last week) but Greenwood’s got no claret and that’s what saves Gibson. I think he’s fine,” Carey said on radio station Triple M.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley praised his side’s effort.
“The only thing we didn’t get to do was sing the song,” Buckley said.