HAWTHORN 5.3 9.5 12.6 15.9 (99)WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.2 7.4 10.7 13.12 (90)GOALSHawthorn: Roughead 5, Smith 3, Puopolo 3, Sicily, Schoenmakers, Burgoyne, O’Brien.Western Bulldogs: Picken 3, Dale 2, Hunter 2, Dahlhaus, MBoyd, Murphy, Campbell, Liberatore, McLean.BESTHawthorn: Hodge (Roughead, McEvoy, Sicily, Smith, Gunston, Mitchell).Western Bulldogs: Murphy, M Boyd (Macrae, Dahlhaus, Dale, Daniel).UMPIRES Stevic, Dalgleish, Fisher.CROWD 48,090 at Etihad Stadium.
This was the Seinfeld game. The game that purported to be about nothing that was actually entertainingly about something.
At a time when football is as romantic as the Dewy system, this was a refreshing indulgence. It was kind of so many Hawthorn fans to come out to farewell Bob. If it were not for the fact he would prefer the attention was on him not on Bob, Sam Newman would have been among them.
As a farewell it was probably right that the game was played with the intensity and manner of an exhibition match, especially given the AFL had placed this essentially meaningless match on Friday night and not the meaningful Geelong-Greater Western Sydney game.
After just half a quarter there had been more goals than tackles. Both teams appeared unpersuaded by the need for contested possessions. The contest become more tense after the main break, and was tight right to the last minutes, yet in the manner it was played it retained a strangely detached training feel throughout.
The mood was as feel-good as a Hugh Grant film. The loudest cheers of the night were for Luke Hodge kicking the ball in. For kicking it in! A “Hodgey” cry rolled around the ground after a powerful clearing punch. Even the least of Hodge’s acts deserved acknowledgment.
The game was played as the season had with the Bulldogs finding goals harder to come by than their opposition did. Against Hawthorn this was made all the harder by the fact Hawthorn liked to play most of their forwards in the Bulldogs forward line, too.
Hawthorn played a skimpy forward line of only three or four forwards with two behind the ball with the game played on a hard rebound. It helped that unlike the Bulldogs they then had big forwards to kick to – Jarryd Roughead, Ryan Schoenmakers and Tim O’Brien
In keeping with his career, Matthew Boyd was the quieter concern as the retiree. Yet he was diligently among the Dogs’ best right to the end.
Jack Macrae ran well from behind the ball, Luke Dahlhaus was creative and Liam Picken was a target forward but that was a difficult regular target. Yet they again were vulnerable in defending against tall powerful forwards – Roughead kicked five.
The sentimentality of the last game also deflected reflection on the fact the reigning premier had missed the eight. Two of their best players were retiring, and while they have progressed some young players like Bailey Dale and Lewis Young, the question of the summer is whether they can correct what went so badly wrong this year. They do not look or play like a team that was a “fluke flag” but must found a way to bounce.
The idea of the exhibition match extended to players on the ground. Schoenmakers is a player of interest for both teams and thus showcasing his talents to both coaches. With others ahead of him in the pecking order on a fit Hawks’ list, he has some interest from the Western Bulldogs as the type of player who could come in next year and be the sort of player they were plainly missing in the forward line on Friday night.
The game left the Hawks able to walk away, not only satisfied with how they farewelled Hodge and Gibson but that O’Meara was more hello than goodbye. Missing for most of the year the fact he could play these late games was encouraging.
Jack Gunston has proved now he can play either end of the ground and will leave the idea available to Clarkson that he remains there next year even if it seems wasteful to have a goalkicker such as he defending not attacking. That said, Tim O’Brien equally played forward and back and has proved adept either end.
The best players list sums the game: Hodge. Murphy, Morris. Others might have done more – Roughead played well – but the game centred on these two.