Hawthorn have made an emphatic statement about their AFL premiership defence, belting Fremantle by 58 points at the MCG on Friday night.
The Hawks’ 21.11 (137) to 11.13 (79) win is the highest score kicked against the Dockers under coach Ross Lyon while Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich played a lone hand with four goals.
After they lined up to watch the unfurling of their premiership flag in a pre-game ceremony, the Hawks turned the grand final rematch into a mis-match.
They opened the game with 6.1, while the side widely expected to challenge Hawthorn for this year’s premiership were kept scoreless.
Hawks midfielder Jordan Lewis rebounded from a quiet game last week to dominate at the stoppages, while Sam Mitchell returned from a calf injury to also star.
Cyril Rioli was outstanding, providing the individual highlight of the match with a screamer of a mark and then playing on to kick a goal.
Rioli only had 20 disposals, but he was high among the Hawks’ best.
Hawthorn were missing injured captain Luke Hodge (groin) and No.1 ruckman Ben McEvoy (calf), who was a late withdrawal, but they showed how deep their talent runs.
By contrast, the Dockers struggled in the midfield without Nathan Fyfe (suspension) and Michael Barlow (knee).
They also lost Garrick Ibbotson (shoulder) and Michael Walters (lower leg) during the match.
Fremantle added some respectability to the scoreline with six goals in the last term, but the game was well and truly over.
The more relevant statistic was Hawthorn’s game-high lead of 75 points early in the final term.
McEvoy’s late withdrawal appeared a major blow for the Hawks because it meant third-gamer Jonathon Ceglar would have to go up against man mountain Aaron Sandilands in the ruck.
But as Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said the day before the match, they could afford to lose the ruck duels so long as they broke even in the clearances.
Fremantle barely touched the ball anywhere on the ground at the start of the match as Hawthorn cut loose.
Fremantle did not take a mark until the 15th minute.
They also lost defender Ibbotson with a dislocated shoulder, which happened in an innocuous moment where he punched the ball clear at a marking contest.
Pavlich kicked the Dockers’ first goal at 23 minutes – amazingly the first time in five matches that Fremantle had goalled against Hawthorn in the opening term.
Hawks ruck-forward David Hale appeared to suffer a serious shoulder injury in the third term, but was back on the ground for the last quarter.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson admitted to surprise that his team had dominated so comprehensively in the first half.
He noted that the Dockers had only conceded five goals per game in the opening two rounds.
“We couldn’t have possibly have envisaged that it was going to be that good a start for our side,” he said.
“To have six goals in the first 20 minutes was really important.
“Our effort tonight and our workrate – we had 22 real goers tonight.”
Apart from Hodge and McEvoy, Hawthorn were also without top players such as Brad Sewell, Norm Smith medallist Brian Lake, Ben Stratton and Ryan Schoenmakers.
The focus is now on Fremantle’s depth, with Chris Mayne also forced off the field with an ankle injury.
Lyon said his men were ready for the contest and there were no excuses.
“We’re licking our wounds at the moment and all credit to the opposition,” he said.
“Hawthorn really won the ball incredibly well, they spread, we couldn’t find them – the whole kit and caboodle, really.”