Hawks must take long way to AFL flag

Hawthorn have taken the longer route to AFL premiership success before and they’re not afraid to do it again, according to Hawks defender Grant Birchall.

Geelong secured a preliminary final berth in the most dramatic circumstances on Friday night when Isaac Smith’s potentially match-winning set shot after the siren sailed to the right of the goalpost at the MCG.

The Cats’ two-point win left the Hawks needing to prevail in a sudden-death semifinal against Western Bulldogs to keep their tilt at a historic fourth successive flag alive.

“We’ve been in this situation before – we put in a shocker this time last year (against West Coast) and were able to bounce back and do it the hard way,” Birchall told AAP.

“We’re a really resilient and tough group so I’ve got full confidence we’ll bounce back.

“We’ve done it the hard way before … we did it last year and we’ll just go again.

“We’ll lick our wounds and move on – there’s no use crying about it. We’ll do all the right things in our preparation and move on.

“We’re back at the ‘G against the Dogs … we play the ground really well.”

The latest chapter in the fierce rivalry between Hawthorn and Geelong was the highlight of an enthralling first weekend of finals, with Greater Western Sydney upsetting Sydney to move into the other preliminary final.

The Swans will host Adelaide in a semifinal at the SCG after the Crows comfortably eliminated North Melbourne.

The 62-point loss at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night means Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo have all played their last games for the Roos.

The Bulldogs began the AFL finals in stunning fashion with a 47-point elimination final upset of the Eagles in Perth on Thursday.

The Giants have an extra week to recover from their bruising win over the Swans but that won’t help Steve Johnson if the AFL match review panel takes a dim view of his bump on Josh Kennedy.

Johnson appeared to catch Kennedy in the head with his shoulder in the first quarter at ANZ Stadium, leaving GWS to nervously await the outcome of Monday’s assessment.

Teammate Shane Mumford will also come under scrutiny for his bone-jarring tackle on Kurt Tippett, who will miss the clash against Adelaide with a fractured jaw suffered in a separate incident.

Rising Star winner Callum Mills will also miss with a hamstring injury suffered against the Giants.

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