AFL Finals: Hawthorn team preview

3 September 2012

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Home and away review 

Source: AFL

The Hawks were toted as premiership favourites from the season’s start.  So it was no surprise that Hawthorn was crowned as the 2012 AFL minor premiers last week.

The Hawks started the season off quite slow.  They lost three of their first five games.  This included the second-round game against Geelong, which resulted in Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson announcing there was still ‘daylight’ between Hawthorn and the topsides.

From then on, Hawthorn went on to win 15 of a possible 17 games, finishing the season with 17 wins.

Besides being defeated by Richmond at the MCG, the Hawks were impressive throughout the season, and their ability to hit targets was incredible to watch at times, with their run and spread just immaculate.

The ‘Kennett’ curse was all but a sure thing to be broken against the Cats in round 19, but a kick at goal after the siren to Tom Hawkins indicated that it would remain intact for a while.

Lance Franklin has showed again why he is arguably the best player of the competition, with a bag of 13 goals against a deplorable North Melbourne.

New recruit Jack Gunston showed his worth in Buddy Franklin’s absence and showed himself as a versatile forward who will continue to provide plenty of support for the Hawks in front of goal.

Max Bailey came back from long-term injury to reach his 26th game of AFL football since being on the Hawks list since the 2005 draft.

Shaun Burgoyne played probably his best season of footy since leaving the Power, while Cameron Bruce called it a day and announced his retirement.

Captain Luke Hodge was absent for most of the season but returned in fashion against Essendon in round 18, kicking five goals.

Key Finals Player – Lance Franklin

It’s no secret that Buddy is the player that the Hawks need firing, as when he is in full form, the Hawks are impossible to beat.

His first quarter against West Coast in Round 23 is proof that he is able to do something that no one else in the competition is capable of.

If he fails to fire the Hawks may struggle to get the premiership. It may just be a coincidence, but when Buddy played and kicked two goals or less this year, the Hawks lost four out of five games.

Why the Hawks can win the flag

They’re entering the  final series as genuine flag favourites.

Hawthorn has an incredible ability to hit targets, its short-kicking game is superb and in attack the Hawks are impossible to stop when they get going.

We have seen them wipe out leads with ease, most notably in the game against Sydney after they trailed by as much as 38 points in the first quarter.

They rank first in the competition for attack in terms of points for, and third in total points conceded.

Their defence was sometimes vulnerable when playing against taller oppositions, but clearly they have seemed to overcome it. They are also generating some excellent attack and ability to score through Matt Suckling and Shaun Burgoyne.

The combination of playing one ruckmen with a supporting forward has worked well for them all year, with David Hale and Jarryd Roughead the first choice combination.

Why the Hawks can’t win the flag

First quarters have been a slight problem for the Hawks but that problem looked to be non-existent against West Coast last Friday.

A lot of their game is based on hitting short targets.  They like to move and maintain quick possession in order to break teams open. But finals football is a different type of game and it will depend on how their style of play holds up against finals pressure.

If a tall attack stretches their backline with clean forward entries than the Hawks may look to be exposed.

Best Possible Result – The Premiership

Hawthorn should win on Friday night then get a week off and host a preliminary final at the MCG.

The Hawks have been favourites for most of the year and if they play their best football, I can’t see anyone stopping them.

Joshua Jeans is a final-year Bachelor of Media Studies student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s current sports editor. You can follow him on Twitter: @jeansjoshua.