Hawthorn look to be the unstoppable Juggernaut of 2012. They have bullied teams all year, only losing one of their last fourteen matches; that was the after-the-siren job by Tom Hawkins that continues the Cats’s curse on the Hawks since the 2008 Grand Final.
But there is no Geelong in this finals series. Hawthorn fans must be breathing a sigh of relief, they may not show it on the outside, but whenever their pet cat (what a mistake!) ‘meows’ at home they begin sweating. Not this time, they have only ‘birds’ to contend with.
The Crows looked to be down and out during their match against Fremantle last week. Freo consolidated to a 29 point lead in the second quarter, but the Crows weren’t going to be bundled out in ‘straight sets’. A five goal haul from cult figure Taylor Walker propelled the Crows to a 10 point, and brutally fought victory over the Dockers.
Hawthorn had the week off last week, and as last night showed, it held Sydney in good stead. Bar some late junk time goals, the Swans completely outplayed the travelling and ragged Magpies and booked their berth in the big one next week.
The Hawks have also put time into getting injured star Jordan Lewis back on track during the finals, and he and Clinton Young are inclusions for today’s match at the MCG.
“They’ve been important parts of our mix, they’ve been consistent players for us throughout the course of the year and played the majority of games,” Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said on Friday.
“In terms of all the structures we’ve got and in terms of the way we want to play, they’ve been pivotal to that throughout the course of the year. We’re happy that they’re available to play.”
The Hawks have replaced Brendan Whitecross who suffered an ACL tear in the Qualifying final, and Thomas Murphy who has been omitted from the side.
The midfield batle will be one to watch with interest. The likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Scott Thompson, Nathan Van Berlo and Rory Sloane will be raring to go, but they will have to compete with Hawthorn’s engine room consisting of Luke Hodge, Brad Sewell, unlucky All-Australian candidate Sam Mitchell and the recalled Jordan Lewis.
The Hawks defence is well matched against the Crows, they kept Taylor Walker to nothing when they met in round three. Hawthorn demolished the Crows by 56 points at the MCG that day. Conversely the Adelaide defense will be stretched. The loss of Rising Star Daniel Talia will cost them dearly. The ageing Ben Rutten will have to take either of Franklin or Roughead, with Andy Otten most likely to take the other.
It’s there that I expect the Hawks to pull out the win. Their forward line will be too strong, and with delivery from their half back and centre lines, they should win by about 30 points.