HAWTHORN 1.4 8.8 12.9 18.13 (121) COLLINGWOOD 2.3 4.6 5.8 8.8 (56)
Goals: Hawthorn: J Gunston 5, J Roughead 4, D Hale 2, P Puopolo 2, B Hartung, J Ceglar, J Lewis, J Simpkin, L Breust. Collingwood: C Gault 2, J White 2, A Fasolo, J Blair, S Sidebottom, T Broomhead.
BEST Hawthorn: Gibson, Lewis, Roughead, Gunston, Mitchell, Burgoyne, Birchall. Collingwood: Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Langdon, Ball, Witts, Thomas.
Injuries: Hawthorn: B Lake (hip), B Hill (corked quad) replaced in selected side by B Hartung. Collingwood: S Dwyer (leg), S Sidebottom (nose).
Umpires: Ben Ryan, Chris Kamolins, Ray Chamberlain.
Official Crowd: 48,973 at MCG.
This game that meant little threatened to become a match that meant so much for Hawthorn. The only thing the Hawks wished to achieve from the game – given victory was assured – was to emerge unscathed. To that end Brian Lake scared them.
An injury to Lake had the capacity to turn this fait accompli contest into a season-defining match.
The Norm Smith medallist, who illustrated his continuing importance to the Hawks only a week earlier against Geelong in at worst breaking even with Tom Hawkins, hobbled from the ground after a heavy collision with Magpies forward Jesse White late in the third term.
He grimaced and grabbed at his groin and side after the knock and hobbled, bent over, to the bench. He was substituted out of the game, with ice strapped to his hip, which was no surprise given the stage of the match and season.
Given the prospect of Hawkins again next week, and Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett awaiting beyond this was probably the injury Hawthorn could least afford. After the match Lake was quick to seek to dispel any lingering concern.
This had been a game about seeking signposts. For Hawthorn the pointers it was looking for were immediate – like injuries. They were also to players like Jonathan Simpkin, Angus Litherland and Billy Hartung and whether they could do enough to persuade the match committee to keep them in the side. None did anything especially right or wrong. Some players – like Luke Hodge and Bradley Hill will return so some will make way. The query will be whether other players would do better next week in a more intense game and against a better opponent, so in that sense all players were on a hiding to nothing. Matt Spangher was trialled as a forward but soon enough also went back into defence.
For Collingwood the match was about longer term signposts. Debutant Corey Gault offered some encouragement. He ran over the ball for his first touch, then sprayed a kick out on the full before kicking a goal after a strong mark with his next touch. His second goal he soccered off the ground rather than picking the ball up and handballing to Luke Ball – a strategic error on multiple fronts despite kicking the goal. He attacks the ball strongly in the air and looks promising.
Jarrod Witts marked more strongly around the ground than he has all year. If he can continue to bring that into his game he could become a seriously good ruckman. Tim Broomhead and Tom Langdon look to be long-term players of high quality.
As a match it was unsurprising and unspectacular. When a team with everything to play for meets a side with nothing but injury to avoid, the side with everything to play for has a sliver of a chance.
Collingwood's approach was, wisely, not sophisticated. The Magpies distilled the match to an effort based game of crowding the contest. The hope was that a week out from the finals Hawthorn would be more concerned by self-preservation than to match intensity.
For a quarter that was effectively how it went. Collingwood made a scrap, slowed the play, trapped it forward and tried to fight its way into the match. It just didn't score enough when it had that run of play.
Collingwood's youthful side found the simplicity of effort agreeable but while young players will give unstinting effort they will also tire faster and have less composure. And that was how the contest went.
In the second term the Hawks held the ball a little longer, spread the game wider, found more space and forced the Magpies to run more if they wanted to play this brawling game. And the Magpies tired.
The goal Jarryd Roughead kicked 22 minutes into the second term illustrated the shift that had occurred. After a kick in from a behind went via Langdon and down the line to the two rucks, Brodie Grundy was able bring the ball to ground. In the first quarter and a half when moments such as these occurred, Collingwood had the superior numbers at his feet to ferret away the ball. This time they were heavily outnumbered, and so the ball rebounded to Roughead who floated in from the side, marked and goaled.
After that the match was never really a contest again. The Hawks booted 17 goals to six after quarter-time and put the match quietly away to the most understated of 11-goal victories. It was an emphatic win with little excitement and no sweetness for the sight of Lake in a red vest.