This was a game that will feature in highlight reels for years to come. The content won’t be about the skill or an exciting finish. It was the weather which was front and centre with the Hawthorn football club reveling in the snowing, Antarctic like conditions to absolutely crush the Greater Western Sydney Giants by 56 points in Canberra. It was factually the worst performance in the Giants short 8 year history posting their lowest ever AFL score. They managed just a miserly 4 points after half-time as Hawthorn adapted to the cold and were unstoppable in their desire for the football.
Alastair Clarkson set the “dealing with the cold” benchmark a day before with remarkable, eccentric-like scenes of running around Manuka Oval shirtless and then turning up to Friday’s night game in shorts and a short sleeved polo shirt. The Clarkson mind games paid off as the Giants literally looked frozen, particularly in the quarter time huddle and appeared to wish they hadn’t have turned up. Conversely, in the Hawks camp, coach Clarkson could be seen grinning and slapping his charges on the back, seemingly oblivious to the extreme cold conditions.
With only 2 games out from the finals series, the Giants are in a world of pain, looking like pretenders instead of contenders. They looked lethargic, purposeless and lacked any offensive power. The shocking part was they have the current Coleman Medalist leader in Jeremy Cameron who clearly looked like he wanted to be somewhere else other than a football field on Friday night and he had plenty of mates who weren’t able to get their minds past the chilly conditions.
From a Hawthorn perspective it was a classic team effort. James Siciliy and Shaun Burgoyne were superb in defense, repelling anything that the Giants threw at them. Jaeger O’Meara laid 8 tackles, ruckman Jonathon Ceglar put in workman-like performance with 5 less hit outs (43-38) against a Giants dual ruck set-up of Shane Mumford and Dawson Simpson. In the midfield James Worpel and Liam Shiels picked up a combined 61 touches. Isaac Smith played his typical game and was in everything picking up 28 disposals, kicking a goal and making 4 tackles.
Finding good players for the Giants in their worst ever performance was difficult. Toby Greene was one of the few G-Men who stood up. Greene picked up 38 disposals and made 5 tackles. Nick Haynes battled bravely after copping a nasty knock to the nose, whilst Zac Williams and Lachie Whitfield tried hard to get something started for their team.
The stunning storyline coming from this game apart from the snow, was the lack of goals coming from the Giants forward line after half-time. It literally froze, with only 4 points being kicked for the remainder of the match. In a word it was dysfunctional. For Hawthorn, they scored goals with ease. Doubles to Paul Puopolo, Luke Bruest, Mitchell Lewis and Tim O’Brien gave the Giants no chance of winning. Former Giant Tom Scully rubbed salt into the wounds of his old club with a handy snap on goal in the third term. The final siren couldn’t come quick enough for the Giants with Hawthorn winning in remarkable circumstances by 56 points.
Post match an obviously stunned Giants coach in Leon Cameron explained the shocking loss “I think we are embarrassed, let’s be honest. It was probably one of our worst losses for a long time. So we need to put our hand up and take responsibility for that. The biggest indicator for us was we got touched up around the footy”.
The win keeps Hawthorn’s 11th (9 wins, 11 losses) finals ambitions alive but it’s going to be tough. They can boost percentage next week when they play the competition cellar dwellers in the Gold Coast Suns Last, (3 wins, 17 losses) at Docklands next Sunday afternoon. The Hawks then face West Coast for a tough, final home and away game of the year in Perth. The Greater Western Sydney Giants 6th (12 wins, 8 losses) return home for a blockbuster affair against arch rivals the Western Bulldogs 10th, (10 wins, 10 losses) who are looking to keep their finals dreams alive as well. It should be a pulsating fixture hopefully reminiscent of the infamous 2016 preliminary final.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 2.1 4.1 4.2 4.5 (29)
HAWTHORN 3.1 6.2 10.5 13.7 (85)
Greater Western Sydney: Kennedy, Hately, Cameron, Deledio
Hawthorn: O’Brien 2, Puopolo 2, Bruest 2, Lewis 2, Scully, Nash, Smith, Wingard, Henderson
Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Williams, Haynes
Hawthorn: Sicily, Worpel, Smith
Greater Western Sydney: Jacob Hopper (hamstring) Brett Deledio (calf)
Hawthorn: Jack Gunston (hamstring) Mitch Lewis (shoulder)
Umpires: Nick Foot, Nathan Williamson, Jacob Mollison