Is Hawthorn’s dream of an AFL three-peat on life support?
Saturday night’s tough four-point loss to Sydney certainly makes it tough for the Hawks, who were the hottest of pre-season favourites to claim a third straight flag.
Hawthorn was certainly not disgraced against the Swans, when only cleaner hands from Cyril Rioli with less than a minute remaining might have won them the game.
But the loss, which leaves Hawthorn’s win-loss record at 4-4, certainly makes an all-important top four position tough going, let alone the top two.
And not in a decade has a team recovered from the same position to claim a premiership.
Paul Roos’ drought-breaking 2005 Sydney side, who were 2-4, was the last team to win the flag from parity after eight rounds.
In the grand final rematch, Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said the Hawks simply didn’t take their chances.
Hawthorn had 18 more inside 50s than the Swans, more shots on goal (24-18) and more contested ball (147-143).
But statistics don’t tell the full story, as Clarkson said of his team’s early effort.
“All the stats that we measure our game by, we were going OK in the first part of the game except being about to convert on the scoreboard,” he said.
The three-time premiership coach wore a resigned look after the match that suggested he knew the hard road ahead.
“We’d like to be better than (4-4) … it is what it is, we’ve got Gold Coast next week and we won’t look any further,” he said.
“Hopefully the tide will turn in terms of getting some consecutive wins and (we can) work our way back into the season.”
That Rioli would fumble the Hawks’ golden opportunity surprised both coaches.
“It doesn’t happen too often does it,” said Swans coach John Longmire.
“He normally takes them and runs in, he’s done it to us a fair bit.”
While not blaming his star forward, who kicked two goals and sparked the Hawks early comeback, Clarkson agreed.
“You usually back him in to take that ball and run into an open goal,” Clarkson said.
“That’s just the tale of the night, we didn’t take our chances.”