Hawthorn winger Isaac Smith came desperately close to living out every AFL footballer’s dream at the MCG on Friday night.
Instead, he endured a nightmare scenario as his potentially match-winning set shot after the final siren sailed wide to the right, handing Geelong a stunning two-point win and a preliminary final berth.
“What can you do about it? He’s been a great player for us,” coach Alastair Clarkson said of Smith’s miss from 40m out on a slight angle.
“I can remember him kicking a 65m goal in a grand final against Freo and being pretty happy with that one.
“He misses this one, he’s disappointed and we’re all disappointed.
“But he’s been a ripper for us. So keep your chin up, mate, and let’s get into next week.”
The breathtaking scenes after the siren provided a fitting end to a typically hard-fought, close encounter between the fierce rivals that played out in front of a bumper crowd of 87,533 fans.
The Cats led by seven points at the first break and the Hawks by the same margin at halftime before Chris Scott’s side edged back in front by two points at three-quarter time.
The Hawks looked set to win their seventh match of the season by a margin of 10 points or less as they held the Cats at bay in the last quarter until a late surge saw Josh Caddy goal to put his side in front with just over four minutes to play.
The loss means Hawthorn will need to take the long road to a historic fourth premiership flag in a row, starting with a semi-final against the Western Bulldogs next weekend.
Clarkson, however, was philosophical about the loss.
“If you’re going to lose a final, this is the one to lose,” he said.
“All the rest of them don’t give you any second chance. We went down this path last year and we’ll have to go down the path again.
“We had our chances throughout the course of the night and so did the Cats. It comes down to the last kick, so it could quite easily have been us victorious and them licking their wounds.
“It cuts a bit deep, but we’ve got to move on pretty quickly.”
James Sicily should be fit to take on the Dogs after pulling out of the side on Friday night due to illness. Ryan Burton is more doubtful after he missed the second half with a badly corked calf.