We had one epic grand final, but two drastically different outcomes for the combatants.
Glorious achievement for Sydney, missed opportunity for Hawthorn.
Sydney have had praise heaped on them in the last 24 hours and rightly so. The Swans are redrawing the road map to football success.
Football’s Moneyball club keeps defying football’s conventional wisdom – refusing to head to the bottom of the ladder - and hence the top of the draft - to build good football teams.
Instead, the Swans trade astutely, draft imaginatively and coach and prepare professionally.
Their player culture is now the envy of the AFL. Their star players stand up week after week and give unconditionally. Adam Goodes on one good leg not two; Ryan O’Keefe in midfield and not in attack; Ted Richards battling back in the last quarter after being thrashed by Lance Franklin in the first and third terms.
Their lesser lights continue to play big roles in big games. Mike Pyke in the ruck in support of a hamstrung Shane Mumford, Mitch Morton in attack where he kicked two goals and set up another battling one against two – this list goes on.
But as brave and resolute as the Swans were, and they were heroic, there is a case to argue that this grand final was as much lost by Hawthorn as it was won by Sydney.
Just like Geelong in 2008 (against the Hawks) and North Melbourne in 1998 (against Adelaide), Hawthorn kicked themselves out of this match and so will be kicking themselves, period.
Their goalkicking radar deserted them when it mattered most – in the preliminary final against Adelaide and in the grand final on Saturday. They crawled over the top of the Crows, but could not repeat the escape act against the Swans.
Even their most dominant player on the day, Lance Franklin, was an offender. His 3.4 with one out on the full represented a conversion rate of less than 40 per cent
Hawthorn’s 24 goals from 58 scoring shots in the preliminary and grand finals represented a strike rate of around 42 per cent.
Hawthorn did not lose this one on courage, resolve or pressure. They lost it because they kicked badly and, as the saying goes, bad kicking is bad football.
By the time this epic had reached its business end, into the last quarter with a flag firmly on the line, you got the feeling that even the uber-confident Franklin was aware of what his missed shots might be costing his team.
Instead of shooting for his team’s 12th goal, in time on with the Hawks trailing by seven points, Franklin passed closer to goal but deeper into the pocket to youngster Jack Gunston – a lesser known player but one with a technically superior kicking action. Gunston hit the post and minutes later at the other end Nick Malceski snapped the goal that won Sydney the match. Their 21 shots had produced 14 goals, Hawthorn’s 26 just 11.
Adam Goodes: Not his biggest game but his finest hour. On one leg after tearing a PCL in the second term, Goodes created three and kicked one goal in an extraordinary effort.
Ryan O’Keefe: Turned the midfield tables on Sam Mitchell in the second term after the Hawks had dominated the first. Laid 15 tackles and was a worthy Norm Smith medal winner.
Dan Hanneberry: From the first quarter marking contest when his actions in running back into David Hale to mark straddled the border between courage and recklessness, Hanneberry was one of this game’s best and bravest midfielders. Super throughout.
Jarrad McVeigh: One of few Swans to get going early and he stayed going throughout. He had 21 touches, laid nine tackles and kicked two big goals.
Alex Johnson: He was terrific in the first half and steady thereafter in defence. He is a very good young player who excelled in both preliminary and grand finals.
Lewis Jetta: Won the match time grand final sprint – an enthralling dash up the southern wing with Cyril Rioli in hot pursuit. His second quarter ball use was pivotal to Sydney getting back in the game.
Mike Pyke: Strong for three quarters, then heroic in the last after Mumford was subbed out with hamstring issues. The rugby convert is a ripper.
Mitch Morton: Kicked two brilliant second quarter goals but his best efforts were three one against two contests in the last when he defied numbers and odds to trap the ball in Sydney’s forward line. He came of age at 25.
Lewis Roberts-Thomson: Combative, physically vibrant and athletic, Roberts-Thomson has a sense of the big moment. He kicked a huge third quarter goal and he took two clutch marks in defence in the last.
Nic Smith: Did a really good job on Rioli early. Smith was the Hawk match winner’s captain in school footy at Scotch College and Rioli was never able to leave a firm imprint on this match.
Brad Sewell: The game of his life. 33 touches, 19 contested possessions, 11 clearances and 11 tackles. If he had kicked a little straighter with two last quarter snaps he would have been a premiership player and on the dais as a Norm Smith medallist.
Lance Franklin: Part hero, part villain. Utterly dominated Ted Richards in the first and third terms but missed shots his team needed him to kick.
Shaun Burgoyne: Got his team going at stoppages when the Swans threatened to break the match in half after taking a third quarter 28-point lead. The Hawks need to play him midfield more often.
Luke Hodge: Brave as usual and resilient after taking an early head knock.
David Hale: He halved the ruck battle with Pyke and Mumford and kicked two critical goals including the one that kick started his team’s third quarter charge.
Luke Breust: The exception to his team’s wasteful efforts forward. He got two chances and took them and laid eight good tackles to lock the ball in attack.
Sam Mitchell: Lowered his colours to O’Keefe but still had 24 possessions with 10 clearances and was a big part of his team’s dominant first quarter.