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 on Sunday by 72 points in Launceston.
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 application of the group, to a man, was first class and we overcame a formidable opponent,” Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
“We placed a lot of pressure on the Fremantle ball carriers and they could never really get any flow in their game.”
The contest didn’t reach any great heights but Nat Fyfe and Sam Mitchell were involved in incidents that are sure to be dissected and discussed at great length.
Fyfe will come under scrutiny from the match review panel (MRP) for a late challenge on Taylor Duryea that led to a 50m penalty paid against him in the first quarter.
The raging Brownlow medal favourite made forearm contact to Duryea’s face in a marking contest but looked set for a fine at worst given the low impact.
“I think, ultimately, the MRP will review and there will be outcomes,” Dockers coach Ross Lyon said.
“I don’t like to preempt anyway. They’re doing their best … everything is what it is and everything gets judged fairly.
“I think we all believe in that.”
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.
Clarkson was reluctant to comment on the incident until he’d seen it, but added it had been a brutal game.
“It’s two really good sides having a genuine crack at each other and there’s going to be collisions,” he said. “I think there were something like 150 tackles laid for the game – they’re collisions and that’s the game of footy.”
The contest pitted Hawthorn’s top-ranked attack against Fremantle’s No.1-rated defence but it was the Hawks’ back six who starred, 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 goal kickers, 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.
He finished with 21 touches, while Michael Barlow and David Mundy worked hard for 26 and 24 disposals respectively.
A Lachie Neale long bomb was 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 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 to lead by 61 points at three-quarter time.
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.