ALASTAIR Clarkson's Hawthorn team has irrefutably stamped itself as one of the greatest sides in VFL/AFL history, clinching its third consecutive premiership with a commanding 46-point win over West Coast in the hottest Grand Final on record.
After the Eagles kicked the opening goal of Saturday's game at the MCG, the Hawks took a stranglehold on the contest with nine straight goals to set up a 16.11 (107) to 8.13 (61) triumph on a windy day when the temperature rose to 31.3 degrees to surpass the previous Grand Final record of 30.7 in 1987.
The victory made Clarkson's 2013-15 Hawks just the fifth club to win three flags in a row, joining Carlton (1906-08), Collingwood (1927-30), Melbourne (1939-41 and 1955-57) and the Brisbane Lions (2001-03).
Clarkson is also now the Hawks' most successful coach, with Saturday's win his fourth premiership triumph (2008, 2013-15) and taking him past the three flags won by John Kennedy snr (1971, 1976, 1978) and Allan Jeans (1983, 1986, 1989).
Just three weeks after West Coast humbled them in the qualifying final, the Hawks turned the tables, rediscovering their trademark mix of 'unsociable' pressure and clinical ball movement that had deserted them at Domain Stadium three weeks ago.
The Hawks set their win up with a commanding first half when they regularly got over the back of Adam Simpson's vaunted 'web' defence to find open targets inside their forward 50.
They also forced West Coast into uncharacteristic mistakes with their relentless defensive intensity, while they were as accurate in front of goal as the Eagles were wasteful.
Cyril Rioli was the star, providing much of the spark on Hawthorn' s forward line, particularly in the first half. He finished two goals, four goal assists and 12 marks and was an extremely popular winner of the Norm Smith Medal.
Lucky 13 - Hawthorn's VFL/AFL premierships
|Year||Grand Final||Norm Smith Medal|
|1961||Hawthorn 13.16 (94) d Footscray 7.9 (51)||Not awarded|
|1971||Hawthorn 12.10 (82) d St Kilda 11.9 (75)||Kelvin Moore* (Haw)|
|1976||Hawthorn 13.22 (100) d North Melbourne 10.10 (70)||John Hendrie* (Haw)|
|1978||Hawthorn 18.13 (121) d North Melbourne 15.13 (103)||Robert DePierdomenico* (Haw)|
|1983||Hawthorn 20.20 (140) d Essendon 8.9 (57)||Colin Robertson (Haw)|
|1986||Hawthorn 16.14 (110) d Carlton 9.14 (68)||Gary Ayres (Haw)|
|1988||Hawthorn 22.20 (152) d Melbourne 6.20 (56)||Gary Ayres (Haw)|
|1989||Hawthorn 21.18 (144) d Geelong 21.12 (138)||Gary Ablett (Geel)|
|1991||Hawthorn 20.19 (139) d West Coast 13.8 (86)||Paul Dear (Haw)|
|2008||Hawthorn 18.7 (115) d Geelong 11.23 (89)||Luke Hodge (Haw)|
|2013||Hawthorn 11.11 (77) d Fremantle 8.14 (62)||Brian Lake (Haw)|
|2014||Hawthorn 21.11 (137) d Sydney Swans 11.8 (74)||Luke Hodge (Haw)|
|2015||Hawthorn 16.11 (107) d West Coast 8.13 (61)||Cyril Rioli (Haw)|
|*Between 1965-78, 'Grand Final best on ground' was awarded before becoming the Norm Smith Medal in 1979|
Jack Gunston made a seamless return from the ankle injury that had sidelined him since the qualifying final, kicking a game high four goals, while Sam Mitchell controlled the game in the midfield, winning an equal game-high 34 possessions that were delivered with his usual precision. The former Hawks skipper also had six clearances, four tackles and two goal assists.
Hard-running wingman Isaac Smith also hurt the Eagles on the scoreboard with three goals, while two-time Norm Smith medallist Luke Hodge (30 possessions) enjoyed another good Grand Final day, the highlight a banana off one step from the boundary line early in the second quarter.
James Frawley continued his strong form since his disappointing performance against the Eagles three weeks ago, keeping Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy goalless, while Brian Lake (11 marks) regularly short-circuited attacks with intercept marks and stopped Josh Hill from goaling early in the last quarter with a desperate smother.
After trailing by 44 points at the 14-minute mark of the second term, West Coast briefly threatened to get back into the game when they kicked the next three goals.
The first two came through Josh Hill and, after the half-time siren, Elliot Yeo.
Yeo's composed set shot from 40m cut the Hawks' lead to 31 points at the main break, and when Jack Darling kicked the opening goal of the second half West Coast was back within 24 points and you sensed, more importantly, back in the game.
But it quickly went south for the Eagles, best illustrated by Darling's dropped mark and subsequent fumble when a simple set shot was in the offing.
The Hawks whipped the ball out of their defensive 50 and Ryan Schoenmakers kicked truly at the other end, snuffing out any sense they might wilt in the unseasonable spring heat. Hawthorn kicked five of the next six goals to go into three-quarter time with an unassailable 50-point lead.
The final quarter was little more than a victory march for the Hawks, and the Eagles restored some respectability to the scoreline with the final three goals of the game.
The Eagles were attempting to become the first team to win the Grand Final after missing the previous year's finals since Geelong in 2007, and just the fourth team to do so since the competition went national in 1987 – the others being Essendon in 1993 and Adelaide in 1997.
Their endeavour could not be faulted but their ball use was well below their normal standards, especially in front of goal. For example, after holding their own in general play in the first quarter, they went into the break down by 19 points, thanks to their 1.5 return and the Hawks' 5.0.
Andrew Gaff (34 possessions) ran tirelessly in the midfield, Luke Shuey (26 possessions) tried hard but let himself down at times with his disposals and Sam Butler stood up in defence under the Hawks' constant barrages.
Ben McEvoy and Nic Naitanui face off in a ruck contest. Picture: AFL Media
Only Jock McHale's legendary Collingwood 'machine' teams now stand above Clarkson's Hawks with their League-record four consecutive premierships from 1927-30.
And just four coaches have won more flags than Clarkson – McHale (eight), Norm Smith (six), Jack Worrall and Frank 'Checker' Hughes (both five).
Seventeen Hawks played in all three of the 2013-15 flags – Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli, Jordan Lewis, Grant Birchall, Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Brian Lake, Ben Stratton, Isaac Smith, Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo, David Hale, Liam Shiels, Jack Gunston and Bradley Hill.
Hodge, Mitchell, Roughead, Rioli, Lewis and Birchall have played in all four flags in the Clarkson era, while Burgoyne is also now a four-time premiership player, having played in Port's 2004 Grand Final win.
HAWTHORN 5.0 9.3 14.5 16.11 (107)
WEST COAST 1.5 3.8 5.9 8.13 (61)
Hawthorn: Gunston 4, Smith 3, Rioli 2, Hodge, Roughead, Birchall, Schoenmakers, Hill, McEvoy, Suckling
West Coast: McGovern 2, Darling, Hill, Hutchings, LeCras, Shuey, Yeo
Hawthorn: Rioli, Mitchell, Smith, Hodge, Gunston, Burgoyne, Frawley
West Coast: Gaff, Shuey, Butler, Hutchings, Priddis
West Coast: Nil
Hawthorn: David Hale replaced by Matt Suckling in the third quarter
West Coast: Callum Sinclair replaced by Matt Rosa in the third quarter
Umpires: Dalgleish, Rosebury, Stevic
Official crowd: 98,633 at MCG