THE STAKES weren’t as high as they used to be but Hawthorn’s dominance over Fremantle endures, with the Hawks romping to a 52-point victory on Saturday night.
When these 2013 Grand Final opponents last met at Domain Stadium a spot in the ‘15 season-decider was up for grabs.
This time the Hawks and Dockers were ‘only’ fighting to keep their slim finals hopes alive, and it was the visitors who cruised to a 15.10 (100) to 7.6 (48) triumph.
Click here for full match details and stats
It was Hawthorn’s 10th win over Fremantle from the past 11 clashes, and rubbing salt into the wounds was a knee injury suffered by Dockers gun Michael Walters two minutes into the final term.
As Walters pulled up short of a marking contest on the wing and hobbled to the bench, best-on-ground Jack Gunston (35 disposals, eight marks) iced the game with a long-range goal to extend the Hawks’ lead to 34 points.
It was the final nail in Freo’s coffin but, in reality, the Dockers never seriously challenged Hawthorn’s stranglehold on the contest after the visitors’ blistering start.
A four-goal onslaught to open proceedings immediately put Freo on the back foot and silenced the 30,818-strong crowd.
The Hawks dominated possession in the opening term (120-96) and had the footy moving around like a pinball.
Late goals to returning spearhead Cam McCarthy and hard-working forward Shane Kersten (two goals each) gave Freo some momentum heading into the first break 15 points adrift.
However, the Dockers’ lack of firepower continues to haunt them.
Despite closing to within eight points early in the second quarter, they couldn’t muster a serious fightback and Saturday night’s clash emphasised the gulf in skill between these sides.
Five talking points: Fremantle v Hawthorn
These Hawks might not be as ruthlessly efficient as the brown and gold machine of their triple-premiership golden era, but even a side in transition picked apart the Dockers.
Hawthorn edged ahead by 20 points at half-time, thanks largely to some supreme class by sharpshooter Luke Breust.
First he rolled through a beauty from deep in the right pocket, before threading the eye of the needle on the run on his left foot.
Not everything was going smoothly, with hot-headed youngster James Sicily and Taylor Duryea embroiled in an ugly spat before half-time.
But it was a rare and minor issue on a night when Alastair Clarkson celebrated becoming Hawthorn’s longest-serving coach, with another convincing win in his 300th game.
“The application to the way we wanted to play and the pressure we were able to put on the Fremantle side was first class,” Clarkson said post-match.
“We just slowly broke them down. It took a long time, but it was really pleasing the way we ran out the game and had a pleasing victory in the end having won all four quarters, which is hard to do when you play Freo over here.
“Irrespective of ladder positions it's always a tough game in Perth, and we are really pleased with the way the boys went about it.”
The Hawks (7-9-1) now have three wins and a draw from their past five games and remain a distant chance to feature in an eighth-straight September campaign.
Ball magnet Tom Mitchell (37 disposals) helped ignite Saturday’s victory, while Sicily (29), fellow youngster Blake Hardwick (23) and Liam Shiels (25) worked overtime all match.
Daniel Howe limited Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe’s influence to 23 touches and a goal.
Irishman Conor Glass impressed with his composure on debut and gathered 15 touches, while Ben McEvoy controlled the ruck.
Triple-premiership former Hawks wingman Bradley Hill (25) was Freo’s best and was emotional post-match embracing his ex-teammates and Clarkson.
Young gun Connor Blakely (29) tried hard in defence alongside Joel Hamling (21) and Lachie Weller (22), while Lachie Neale (27) and Stephen Hill (21) didn’t lower their colours.
But they couldn’t prevent the rebuilding Dockers from limping to a seventh loss from their past eight games.
“We felt like we regressed tonight,” coach Ross Lyon said.
“The start was disappointing for all concerned.
“We’ve been starting over the last few weeks a lot better and our form’s been really consistent for four weeks.
“We’ve been in tight, tough games and given ourselves plenty of opportunities, defending really well and our clearance work has been strong.
“We came here really optimistic.”
Fremantle: Michael Walters’ season could be over after he hurt his posterior cruciate ligament in his knee and limped from the field in the final term. The Dockers won’t be certain about the prognosis until after scans.
Hawthorn: The Hawks got through unscathed.
Hawthorn has set the scene for another thrilling Friday night clash against the rampant Sydney Swans, whose last loss was to the Hawks in a marquee match-up in round 10. The Dockers have a tough run home and will face a daunting trip to face GWS this Saturday.
FREMANTLE 2.0 3.4 5.5 7.6 (48)
HAWTHORN 4.3 6.6 9.9 15.10 (100)
Hawthorn: Breust 2, Roughead 2, Henderson 2, Burgoyne 2, Smith, Gunston, Schoenmakers, Hartung, O'Brien, McEvoy, Howe
Fremantle: Kersten 2, McCarthy 2, Fyfe, Nyhuis, Ballantyne
Hawthorn: Gunston, Mitchell, Shiels, Breust, Howe, Roughead, Hodge, Sicily
Fremantle: B.Hill, Fyfe, Neale, Blakely, Logue, Hamling
Fremantle: Walters (knee)
Umpires: Margetts, Ryan, Dalgleish
Official crowd: 30,818 at Domain Stadium