Bleary-eyed Swans still celebrating
Josh Kennedy and Keiran Jack of the Swans show off the AFL Trophy. Picture: Getty Images

Battered and bleary-eyed, newly-crowned AFL premiers Sydney might have struggled to beat any club in Australia on Sunday.

In theory, they should never really have beaten Hawthorn on Saturday.

But the club formerly known as South Melbourne, that nearly died before moving to the harbour city 30 years ago, knows how to beat the odds.

They were stacked against them, as a glance at the pre-game betting markets confirmed.

The Hawks were minor premiers, playing at home and had beaten the Swans just five weeks earlier.

Sydney defied football convention by carrying injured players into the grand final - All Australian defender Ted Richards nursed an ankle injury and No.1 ruckman Shane Mumford a hamstring complaint, while veteran Jude Bolton's knee ligaments were only partly intact.

The Swans' most likely match-winner Adam Goodes sustained a serious knee injury early in the second quarter.

Hawthorn's equivalent Lance Franklin lit up the MCG in the third as the Hawks roared ahead.

With most of the key statistics and all of the momentum firmly in Hawthorn's favour, it seemed their time.

Instead, it was the famed culture and cohesion of a Sydney side rebuilt since their 2005 flag, largely with other clubs' unwanted fringe players, who found a way to triumph.

Goodes, who bravely played on, kicked a crucial last-quarter goal and added a second premiership medallion to his two Brownlow Medals.

Former rugby international Mike Pyke stood up in the ruck as Mumford was subbed off to become Canada's first AFL premiership player.

Josh Kennedy, descended from two generations of Hawthorn royalty, reminded his former club they should never have let him go three years ago, while Ryan O'Keefe, once nearly traded to the Hawks, won the Norm Smith Medal.

Kieren Jack's premiership added poignancy given his dad, rugby league star Garry Jack, could not quite clinch a title with Balmain.

Sam Reid and Rhyce Shaw got to experience what their brothers, 2010 Collingwood premiership players Ben Reid and Heath Shaw, both in the crowd, had felt two years earlier.

Hawthorn, who let themselves down with inaccurate kicking, were left to rue the one that got away, although they promised to come back stronger next year.

"The last time we lost a grand final in 1987, the two years after that we saluted both times," Hawks president Andrew Newbold told 2000 cheering fans at Glenferrie Oval on Sunday.

For the Swans, the hard work needed next season and the injuries caused winning the club's fifth flag were barely noticed.

Whatever pain the elation of winning did not erase was swept away by the all-night celebration that followed.

"All I know is I have this gold thing (premiership medallion) around my neck - it's the best feeling I know," said co-captain Jarrad McVeigh.

The West Australian

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