It was supposed to be a grand final preview but the clash between AFL heavyweights Hawthorn and Fremantle didn’t live up to its billing, with the classy Hawks crushing the Dockers by 72 points in Launceston on Sunday.
Hawthorn were rarely troubled by the ladder leaders in their Tasmanian fortress, with the 17.13 (115) to 6.7 (43) victory extending their winning streak at Aurora Stadium to 14 games.
The contest didn’t reach any great heights but it wasn’t without points of interest with Nat Fyfe and Sam Mitchell involved in incidents that are sure to be dissected and discussed at great length.
Fyfe will come under scrutiny from the match review panel for a late challenge on Taylor Duryea that saw a 50m penalty paid against him in the first quarter.
The raging Brownlow medal favourite made contact with his forearm to Duryea’s face in a marking contest but would appear in danger of copping a fine at worst given the low impact.
Fyfe limped from the ground in the second term after copping a knee to the thigh from Mitchell that was reminiscent of the Hawk onballer’s knee on Adelaide’s Taylor Walker earlier this season, for which he escaped sanction.
The contest pitted Hawthorn’s top-ranked attack against Fremantle’s No.1-rated defence but it was the Hawks’ back six who starred on the day, strangling the Dockers’ attack and restricting them to just one goal in the first half.
Josh Gibson, with 27 disposals, expertly marshalled the defensive unit and Mitchell did the same with Hawthorn’s dominant onball brigade on his way to a game-high 39 possessions.
The Hawks shared the load in attack with 10 goalkickers, which didn’t include Cyril Rioli and Jack Gunston, with Luke Breust leading the way with four.
Fyfe didn’t have a hard tag applied by a single opponent but a Hawk was never far away whenever the superstar had the ball in hand.
He finished with 21 touches, while Michael Barlow gathered 26 disposals.
A Lachie Neale long bomb would prove to be the Dockers’ only major for the first half as Hawthorn ground out a 19-point lead at the first break that they extended to 38 points at halftime.
Fremantle fought back with two of the first three goals of the second half but the resurgence was short-lived as the Hawks kicked the next five goals to lead by 61 points at three-quarter time.
Ross Lyon would have at least wanted his side to win the final term, but Hawthorn even denied them that as the Dockers conceded a score greater than 100 points for the first time this season.