AFL Grand Final Hodge's Finest Hour

Hawthorn great Luke Hodge is destined to be an AFL legend and the 2014 Grand Final could prove his finest hour after the Hawks lifted the Premiership trophy for the third successive time.

Hawthorn hangovers will be hurting heads by now or perhaps the Hawks are still flying high as celebrations continue after taking back to back AFL premierships. But while the winners enjoy consecutive flags Sydney is still searching for answers to what went wrong in the grand final. The favourites failed to fire while the reigning premiers were prolific as they defended their title in stunning fashion in front of more than 94,000 spectators at the MCG. The 2012 grand final rematch had a different winner in a much different game, the Hawks crushing Sydney 21. 11 (137) to 11. 8 (74).

Hodge Heroics

Big budget Hollywood directors couldn’t have written the script as Luke Hodge’s 250th appearance became possibly his finest hour. The milestone match was just one sub-plot of the storyline ahead of the grand final but Hodge’s heroics saw the skipper steal the headlines in the decider. He earned his second Norm Smith medal with a remarkable display before lifting the premiership trophy for the third time, his second as captain.

The current Hawthorn great will one day be an AFL legend, after becoming just the third player in AFL-VFL history to secure 2 Norm Smith Medals for the grand final’s best performer. He polled 10 votes, 1 more than teammates Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell. The 30 year old was immense taking 12 marks and racking up 35 possessions, but it was his successive goals in the second quarter that strangled the Swans. While the Hawks had established a lead Sydney still had a sniff before Hodge’s 2 majors made the difference 47 points. The psychological blow broke the Bloods’ spirit.

The battle hardened Hawthorn midfielder showed a softer side in the third quarter, giving former teammate Lance Franklin a kiss on the cheek after the pair’s one on one battle. But his willingness to wrestle solo with Franklin showed exactly why he’s such an inspirational leader.

Hot Hawks

Hodge wasn’t the only Hawk to hit spectacular heights; Sam Mitchell must have been planning his Norm Smith speech at half time, having racked up 5 clearances and 19 touches before the break. The Swans slowed him after it but a game high 9 tackles and 33 possessions put him within 1 vote of his skipper.

Jordan Lewis was the other almost Norm Smith winner after capping a stellar season with a superb display. Despite that corked thigh that bothered his build up, and sent the rumor mill into a spin, Lewis was electric especially in the third quarter. He finished with 37 disposals, 7 clearances and a couple of war wounds including that corked leg and a cut to the face.

‘No Franklin, no problem’ for Jarryd Roughead. He spearheaded the Hawks attack with style and power. Without his big buddy in this grand final Roughead was Hawthorn’s dominant target and despite an early victory to Sydney’s Ted Richard’s, the forward found his feet… Then his range, booting 5 majors.

But every man in gold and brown played his part, even an underdone Cyril Rioli. The gamble to include the livewire in the team despite having not featured since round 15 paid off. While Rioli’s magnificent moments were rare; his crafty intercept provided a goal for Roughead while another brave play saw him dive at his opponents boot to again scramble an opportunity which his forward line teammate capitalised on. He was subbed out of the game in the fourth quarter, but he’d made his mark.

Booed Buddy Blood’s Best

Hawthorn’s fears before the match that booing Buddy may spur him on might have rung true had the forward not been starved of possession. But fans weren’t afraid to let Franklin feel their wrath especially as the game slipped further away from the Swans. Still AFL’s most expensive man refused to give in despite copping it from his former worshippers and his ex-teammates alike. The Swans were dominated in the midfield which saw Buddy drop further back, in an attempt to get more of the Sherrin. Despite plenty of attention he managed 4 majors and 5 contested marks to be Sydney’s best on ground.

The Swans led by 6 in the 13th minute but then the Hawks swooped in an unforgettable first half display. Late goals in the opening quarter gave them a 20 point lead at the first change before a scintillating second quarter all but ended the contest. The Hawks racked up 11 majors to 5 in the first half to amass a massive 7 goal margin. Swans fans prayed for a miracle while the neutrals were hoping for a fight back, but it never eventuated as Hawthorn hammered their opponents. In the end the 63 point margin was the tenth biggest grand final win in AFL-VFL history.