Luke Hodge was outstanding across half-back for the Hawks
HAWTHORN has secured a home preliminary final and an ideal path to the Grand Final, beating the Sydney Swans by 54 points at the MCG on Friday night.
Despite missing game-breakers Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli, the Hawks made a significant statement against the 2012 premiers, thundering home to win 15.15 (105) to 7.9 (51).
The opening final of 2013 was as bruising and draining as the last of 2012, but this time it was Hawthorn emerging victorious, further strengthening its premiership claims.
With scores level at half time, the Hawks were able to make their move in the third quarter, kicking five goals to one and opening up a 25-point lead at the last change.
When the final siren sounded, they had kicked seven of the last nine goals, leaving the Swans looking rattled.
John Longmire's men will now need to take the long road through the finals in the knowledge that no qualifying final loser has gone on to make the Grand Final since West Coast in 2006.
In a match played in the Swans' tight, contested style, it was Hawthorn's seasoned midfielders who shaped Friday night's contest.
Captain Luke Hodge was the architect, running off opponent Jesse White most of the night to finish with 25 possessions (21 uncontested) and eight marks across half-back.
At the coalface, Sam Mitchell (29 disposals) was superb, and Brad Sewell, who was dropped mid-season, proved his value in September with 30 touches.
Without Franklin, who will return for the preliminary final, the Hawks had 11 separate goalkickers. Jack Gunston led the way with three.
"You just couldn't stay with the frenetic pace it was going at in the first half, and we're just enormously proud that it wasn't our guys who succumbed in that circumstance.
"We ran really hard and gave ourselves some opportunities, and managed to connect enough with some inside 50 marks."
It was an incredibly even performance from Clarkson's men, who will now have a week off to recover before facing some welcome selection headaches with Franklin and Rioli set to return.
With just eight goals kicked in the first half, the match appeared tailor-made for the Swans, who were strengthened on paper after their 12-point loss to the Hawks seven days ago.
However, the inclusion of Kurt Tippett (two marks) and Dan Hannebery (13 possessions) didn't pay dividends.
Longmire said it was the Swans' inability to retain possession that led to the capitulation, with Hawthorn kicking 11 goals to two from turnovers.
"The second half, we just didn't get our hands on it, and every time we did we turned it over," Longmire said after the match,
adding Adam Goodes would push for selection next weekend. .
"They made us pay going back the other way.
"In the first half we were pretty competitive, [but] to fall away badly in the second half was disappointing."
The Swans were best served by midfielders Kieren Jack (32 possessions and nine clearances), Josh Kennedy (29 and 10) and Ryan O'Keefe (21 and six), but it was on the outside they were exposed.
Speedster Lewis Jetta returned, but he started as the substitute and couldn't turn the tide alone.
The Swans had 91 fewer possessions than the Hawks, with nine players finishing the match in single digits compared to Hawthorn's two.
Tippett kicked his two goals in the first quarter but was well held thereafter by Brian Lake, who shapes as a crucial Hawthorn recruit this September.
Late withdrawal Cyril Rioli chats with Paul Puopolo after Hawthorn advanced to the preliminary final. Picture: AFL Media
HAWTHORN 3.4 4.7 9.9 15.15 (105)
SYDNEY SWANS 3.3 4.7 5.8 7.9 (51)
Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Hale 2, Roughead 2, Hill, Spangher, Lake, Bailey, Shiels, Puopolo, Anderson, Breust
Sydney Swans: Tippett 2, Rohan, Pyke, Jetta, O’Keefe, White
Hawthorn: Hodge, Mitchell, Sewell, Burgoyne, Guerra, Lake, Birchall, Gunston
Sydney Swans: Jack, Kennedy, Pyke, Bird, Parker, Mitchell
Hawthorn: Rioli (right ankle) replaced in selected side by Shiels
Sydney Swans: Nil
Hawthorn: Max Bailey replaced by Jed Anderson in the third quarter
Sydney Swans: Shane Mumford replaced by Lewis Jetta in the third quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Rosebury, Stewart
Official crowd: 59,615 at the MCG