In recent times clashes between Sydney and Hawthorn have been keenly anticipated, one of the few genuine rivalries, alongside Geelong/Hawthorn, the Derby and the Showdown. Based on Grand Final heartbreak, players swapping colours and an amazing run of close results, not contrived by the AFL marketing department or a remnant of a distant past that sees the fabled ‘big 4’ get a leg up at every opportunity.

Indeed, the extraordinary consistency of incredible matches between these two sides has been somewhat lost in the higher profile match-ups listed above, but a quick glance shows this battle is as fiercely fought as any. In the past eight seasons the two clubs have met on 19 occasions, and four finals, with the Hawks ahead 13-6, with the finals record a 3-1 lead again to the brown and gold, the one win to Sydney of course the 2012 Grand Final classic. Five of the past six have been played in the marquee Friday night slot, unbelievably nine of the last 11 have been decided by less than three goals. The last five have all been decided by single figure margins.

Although both teams have slipped down the table in 2019, the expectation was reasonably high that we would again witness another match for the ages, each side precariously placed just outside the eight, Franklin playing match 299 and the man he will forever be inextricably linked to, Jarryd Roughead returning to the Hawks senior lineup. Alas, it was not to be, as this match failed to reach any great heights. The strangely subdued crowd was barely enthused by a 19-point victory to the home side, possibly overshadowed by serious injuries to Franklin and Sinclair.

Hawthorn coming off what can only be described as a horror week, would have been comforted returning to the SCG where they had not lost since 2010, and the players made a statement prior to the match, recognising Swans champion Adam Goodes by adorning his famous number 37 on their warm up shirts. The Swans meanwhile welcomed back stars Kennedy, Jones and Hayward and would have been full of confidence after dismantling the reigning premier last week in their best performance of the season.

The first quarter started entirely to form, as a fortuitous clearance landed with Tom Papley who continued his AA quality run with a wonderfully weighted pass to Franklin for his first. Both players would have a big impact on the match and their combined contribution of six goals straight would prove the difference in the wash up. Franklin looked sharp for his four goals, although James Frawley was far from disgraced, the quality of delivery and some of the old number 23 magic threatened to light up a mundane night. A stalemate through the third quarter contrived to keep Franklin on the bench for an extended period, and when he finally returned almost immediately blew out his hamstring. The nature of the injury and proceeding circumstances will no doubt be forensically analysed by coaches, doctors and the baying media pack in the week to come.

Hawk superstar, James Sicily was the beneficiary of a perfect Gunston pass for the first Hawks goal, the only response to a withering opening from the usually dour Swans that resulted in six goals and fears of a blowout. The Sydney defensive line added extra numbers after the 6-6-6 commencement and used their advantage to switch play quickly and attack as soon as a gap appeared. Converted set shots from O’Meara and Ceglar after a powerful mark in front of the athletic Allir where he held his body shape and grasped the ball in front of his eyes kept the margin manageable at quarter time.

The scoreboard flattered the visitors who looked slow and indecisive, displaying all of the conviction of the 1933 Hawthorn side who first wore the gold jumper with brown vee. Their failings were best highlighted, or should that be lowlighted by Shaun Burgoyne who typically dominates on the hallowed SCG turf repeatedly not taking possession and allowing the Swans a clear passage to goal, and a disappointing Harry Morrison who is playing AFL under false pretences at present. Young Swans Rose, the brazen Jones and elegant Dawson cut a swathe through the faltering Hawk midfield and continually gave excellent service to the waiting forwards. 

The second stanza began in near identical fashion with the robust Ryan Clarke repeatedly putting his body on the line to clear a path for Parker, Heeney and Kennedy. Livewire Papley set up Franklin’s third which was also his 200th at the SCG and roundly applauded on the coverage by another famed Swan spearhead, the incomparable Tony Lockett.

The tale of the tape was clearly illustrated by the Swans sublime forward 50 entries compared to the haphazard manner of the Hawk attacking thrusts. A rare Puopolo touch that was handballed into the back of the running Morrison was indicative of the mire they found themselves in, however a change in fortune based on the hard work and tackling of O’Meara, probably the best four-quarter contributor on the night and Shiels slowly changed the momentum and the Hawks scrambled to get back to seven points at half time.

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After the long break, again the Swans scored early, a common theme of the night, as Tim O’Brien made a horrible error kicking across the ground to set up Hayward who passed to Franklin for his fourth from just five touches before injury struck. Longmire seemed to be instructing his charges to be patient with their ball movement and keep control as they moved further afield, but I’d suggest they looked far more dangerous when attacking quickly and moving the ball at pace. It may have been a case of conserving energy in between forward bursts, in which case the strategy was most effective.

The rest of the quarter was controlled by Hawthorn as they slowly took over in the midfield with Smith and Impey providing outside support to O’Meara and Shiels, and Gunston started to look lively up forward. A bizarre goal was scored when a speculative snap by Gunston just before the siren bounced through untouched as Sinclair and Rampe stopped and watched, perhaps both expecting the other to get back and get a touch on the long, floating ball. The aerial prowess of O’Brien and Dawson came to the fore in the third, as Sinclair began to get on top of the Hawk ruck tandem, feeding Heeney and Jones in particular.

An eight-point margin seemed to set up for another grandstand finish, but this time there was no Hawthorn resistance. The Swans, on the back of an uncontested mark and goal from Sinclair and then a towering grab and finish from young Blakey sealed a workmanlike win. The belated move of Sicily back to his more familiar surrounds in defence was too late to impact the result and one might muse if the mastercoach has an ulterior motive by holding his ace out of the play the last fortnight. A nasty incident where Sinclair knocked himself out and then appeared disoriented and confused took some of the gloss off the end result, but the Swans live to fight another day in 2019.

The victors were best served on the night by Jordan Dawson whose poise in the marking contest and luscious kicking were a standout on a night of few highlights, Luke Parker was prolific but not as damaging or influential as his 2016 version. Sinclair was a clear winner in the ruck, while Zac Jones, Heeney, Papley and Rampe were very good.

For the Hawks, O’Meara was clearly their best, his poor disposal the only letdown and probably keeping him out of the votes, Shiels was equally wasteful but worked tirelessly and Impey and Henderson were solid.

Looking ahead the Swans should win their third on the trot as the host the luckless Suns next week – keeping their slim finals hopes alive, however it doesn’t get any easier for the Hawks as they welcome the reigning premiers fresh off an impressive return to form on Thursday, and can actively start attending NAB League matches with a view to 2020.  

 

 

5 BEST MOMENTS IN THE RIVALRY (SYDNEY EDITION)

–          Lance Franklin moves to the harbour city

o   One of the biggest stories in AFL history as the talismanic Hawk superstar stuns the footballing world by leaving the premiers for Bondi.

–          Malceski ices the 2012 flag

o   It was always going to take something special to best his iconic first quarter snap in the Grand Final, but it occurred late in the last quarter as the Sydney left footer curled one through the sticks at the City end and was mobbed by his elated teammates who could taste premiership victory for only the second time in 80 years.

–          Lewis Jetta runs away from Cyril Rioli

o   Two brilliant indigenous players went toe to toe, or stride for stride on the outer wing towards the Punt Rd end in the third quarter, and much like the end result Sydney were too strong.

–          Ben Ronke

o   An unknown third gamer delivered a knock out blow with seven goals in a match winning performance against the Hawks at the mighty MCG.

–          Victory at York Park in 2012 gives belief

o   A Joey Kennedy inspired second half saw a three goal deficit overturned and a resounding 37-point victory recorded at the Hawks Tasmanian fortress in a telling sign of things to come later that year.

5 BEST MOMENTS IN THE RIVALRY (HAWTHORN EDITION)

–          Dan Hannebery feels the full force of a Hawthorn scorned.

o   One of the prime movers of previous Sydney victories against the Hawks was clearly targeted early in the 2014 decider and one after another Jarryd Roughead, David Hale and Luke Breust drove him fairly but with extreme prejudice deep into the ground.

–          A Bruce McAvaney special

o   One of the greatest ever callers provided the perfect commentary for what is recognised as the single finest team performance in this sport – “the best team of the past 50 years produce their masterpiece, they’ve never been better”.

–          The Comeback

o   In a seemingly hopeless position at half time of a much win match, the great Shaun Burgoyne literally dragged his team across the line contributing three goals, including the go ahead six-pointer and a myriad of damaging disposals before Brad Sewell capped off the win with a  monster goal from the ensuing centre bounce.

–          2013 Qualifying Final rematch

o   The Hawks gain an element of revenge on their way to the 2013 flag beating the Swans at their own game as Isaac Smith and Brad Hill run riot in a nine-goal victory in front of a massive crowd.

–          2015 return of Roughead

o   Having missed a month of football while recovering from the removal of a melanoma, the Hawks flexed their back-to-back muscle crushing their nearest rivals by 89 points at Homebush. The inspiring Roughead contributed five goals on an emotional night.

 

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