The match-ups that mattered in today's AFL grand final.
1. Ryan Crowley on Sam Mitchell
Right from the outset, Hawthorn were delivering on their promise to give Fremantle’s chief tagger a tough time at the stoppages, with sometimes two or three other Hawks hammering into him.
Crowley dropped Mitchell twice in 20 seconds in the first quarter, but received a free-kick after the second when Lance Franklin stormed in with a retaliatory bump. Crowley was roundly booed by Hawks fans with every touch of the footy.
By half-time, Crowley had grabbed 10 possessions to Micthell’s six and was again playing a superb role for his side. But Hawthorn’s midfield restructuring to tweak Mitchell’s role was also influential in bringing some of his teammates more strongly into the game. Mitchell started the second half at half-back and that was clearly a win for Crowley and Fremantle.
In the end, Crowley was again one of Fremantle’s best players and was a clear winner on the day in his individual match-up, rendering Mitchell inconsequential.
2. Aaron Sandilands and Max Bailey
As has become clockwork, Sandilands stamped his dominance on the tap-work from the start with 13 hit-outs in the first quarter, while Hawthorn’s big men combined for only six in the whole term.
But Bailey limited Sandilands in every other sense early. The same trend continued in the second half, but as has often been the case with Fremantle, they could not convert the ruck dominance into stoppage ascendancy against the well-drilled Hawks midfield.
Sandilands , opposed mainly to Hale in the final term, tried admirably to lift his team from the stoppages, but the Hawks were too desperate and too well organised to cut any clear path through.
3. Luke McPharlin on Lance Franklin
Michael Johnson went to Franklin for the first bounce, but the expected match-up took place soon after. Franklin signalled early that his marksman would have a busy day, roaming far and wide on the MCG hunting both the ball and Fremantle players.
While McPharlin had some useful moments, Franklin played an influential role in setting up his team’s first-half lead.
Although McPharlin did not spend the whole third quarter on Franklin, the times they were matched led to some fascinating viewing as the pair regularly jostled for ascendancy forward of the ball. But the contest started to swing the Dockers' way during that quarter. After his bright start, Franklin’s impact on the match was marginal.
4. Brian Lake on Matthew Pavlich
Pavlich was virtually unseen in the early part of the game as Fremantle failed to build any semblance of attacking system.
It allowed Lake to off the ball easily when it did enter their area. Pavlich fought back in the second term, but should have been more prominent on the scoreboard had he kicked straight and if McPharlin had not butchered an attempt to hit up his hard-running skipper close to goal in the second term.
But Pavlich must have reached into his kit bag and half-time to find his Superman cape and, along with midfielder David Mundy, spearheaded the Fremantle fight-back. It was no coincidence that his influence rose with the Dockers’ ability to find better systems with which to attack and his impact led to a match-up swap, with Josh Gibson replacing Lake.
Pavlich’s two goals for the third term were significant. But once freed from marking Pavlich, Lake was able to again do what he does best and repelled Docker attacks time and time again.
5. Zac Dawson on Jack Gunston
Dawson went to Jarryd Roughead at the first bounce, but the swinging matchups meant he soon went to the often under-estimated Hawk. And it was no easy task. Gunston played with confidence and assurance and his sublime reading of the play and ability to find space at crucial moments made him the most damaging player on the ground in the first half.
His three first-half goals were testament to both his contested and uncontested ability.
As Fremantle’s coaching staff looked to sure up better defensive match-ups in the third term, Dawson was switched away from Gunston to Roughead, who booted two important goals for the term.Gunston was then manned by both Luke McPharlin and Paul Duffield and kicked a fourth goal in the third term to continue his sparkling performance. His role was a key factor in the result.