Geelong have booked an AFL preliminary final berth in stunning fashion, Hawthorn winger Isaac Smith missing a set-shot after the siren to leave the Cats winners by two points at the MCG.
The Hawks won six games by less than 10 points this season but they couldn’t make it seven after Smith pushed his shot from 40m on a slight angle to the right, leaving Geelong players celebrating a 12.13 (85) to 12.11 (83) win in front of 87,533 fans.
Hawthorn held a slender lead for most of Friday night’s final term but the Cats – led superbly by Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood – took back the lead through Josh Caddy with just over four minutes to play.
The latest chapter in one of the fiercest rivalries of the past decade was typically hard fought, with flashes of brilliance, plenty of niggle and, of course, it was close all the way.
Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo delivered individual highlights with trademark towering marks, while Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and the Selwood brothers were never far away when tempers boiled over.
Scott Selwood applied a hard tag on Mitchell in one of the most-absorbing duels of the evening, with the Hawks’ playmaker taking the honours with 30 disposals.
The Cats led by seven points at the first break, the Hawks by the same margin at halftime before Chris Scott’s side edged back in front by two points at three-quarter time to set up the stunning finale.
If Hawthorn are to win a historic fourth flag in a row, they’ll have to do it the hard way. They face the Western Bulldogs in a semi-final next weekend, while the Cats have a week off to prepare for their preliminary final.
The Hawks suffered injury blows when they lost James Sicily to illness before the game and Ryan Burton to a calf injury in the second quarter.