Next week’s grand final is the one AFL fans want to see – Sydney’s Buddy Franklin against his old club, Hawthorn, after the Hawks held off a fast finishing Port Adelaide to win by 3 points at the MCG last night.
Hawthorn 97 (15.7) just managed to hold out Port Adelaide 94 (13.16) in front of nearly 75,000 on Saturday night, thanks in part to six goals from star forward Jarryd Roughead.
Hawthorn looked set to cruise through to the grand final against the Swans when they were 29 points in front with less than 20 minutes left. The Port launched a thrilling fightback and momentum swung so dramatically in their favour it left the Hawks stunned. The young upstarts had the legs and energy, while the favourites simply ran out of puff.
As the deficit kept falling, it looked like Port would come from outside the final four for an historic win. They had their chance with two minutes to go when Andrew Moore lined up on the right side, but failed to land the killer blow. It embodied Port’s wasted opportunities throughout the night. Time and again in a close tussle they had their chances, but couldn’t convert, despite dominating the Hawks for the first quarter, to end with 3.9 and a a 27-15 lead. Hawthorn seemed tentative and gifted Port goals from poor goal-line kick outs before they took off in the second quarter with six goals to two to take an 11-point lead, and stay in front for the rest of the match.
The drama continued in the dying moments as Port continued to press, until Hawks skipper Luke Hodge smothered Brad Ebert, then received a free for holding. Only then did the Premiers know they were in their fourth consecutive grand final.
It’s the fourth year in a row Hawthorn has scraped through their prelim final by less than a goal. Now the stage is set for a rematch of their 2012 loss to the Swans.
This time 2013 premiership winner Lance Franklin, whose misfires in 2012 cost the Hawks the title, is on the other side. And he’ll have the Swans with him.