This first and brutal semi-final match of the Toyota 2018 AFL series saw a devastating end to the Hawthorn Hawks’ decade long reign of domination over the Melbourne Demons at the Hawks’ home ground, the MCG.
This was a closely contested match and both teams played quite equally so the 33 point difference at the game was very surprising but it seems the Demons’ chaotic style of play was advantageous over Hawthorn’s more precise game play. Playing at their home ground, it seemed home conditions would favour the Hawks what with them winning the toss, the game commencing to the electric cheers of ‘Hawthorn’ and a goal by Ryan Schoenmakers less than two minutes into the match. Every Hawk goal was celebrated with fireworks.
But both teams came out fighting and without mercy. With a tackle by the Demons resulting in a holding the ball*, Christian Salem’s free kick gained the Demons a behind. Despite the game being played for mere minutes, it was already littered with brutal tackles given the severity of winning the match. Jarryd Roughead soon earnt the Hawks a behind but a minute later, the Demon’s Tom McDonald equalised the score after a goal. The pressure was on.
The Hawks were consistently faster and had better placing but the Demons were determined with their tackles having made eight in under ten minutes. This game was much more fast-paced than the previous Cats vs Demons game; a tackle by Melbourne lead to holding the ball but the Demons threw the ball to the Hawks who then returned it to the Demons before the Hawks prevented a Demon mark. Melbourne were definitely putting the pressure on Hawthorn. A gorgeous series of long disposals and a threat of losing possession failed to accumulate in a goal for the Hawks as a Demon caught the ball before it went through. Sixteen minutes in, McDonald scored his second goal bringing the score to 7-13. At this point in the game, the Hawks had a higher disposal efficiency with 73% compared to 60% for Melbourne. The score at the end of this tense first quarter was level with 19-19 after James Worpel and Jack Gunston earnt the Hawks a goal apiece and Christian Petracca obtaining a goal for the Melbourne Demons.
The second quarter saw an absence of fireworks as the Hawks were unable to gain anything other than six behinds (Paul, Puopolo-Gunston-Ricky Henderson-rushed-Ryan Burton-Gunston). The kicking efficiency of the Hawks inside the 50 was evidently an issue in this quarter at 11% compared to Melbourne’s 80% efficiency. The Demons had the edge, placing Hawthorn under pressure, especially after Max Gawn’s goal for Melbourne exactly a minute in. Sam Weidman’s goal came after he registered a mark shortly after a failed disposal by the Hawks meant losing possession to the Demons. Ten minutes in, Aaron vanderBerg awarded the Demons a behind. By this point, Hawthorn had only made three tackles in the 50 compared to Melbourne’s 11. After Angus Brayshaw added another Demon goal to the scoreboard, Melbourne were clearly dominating the quarter. This being said, the Hawks did show some amazing play, particularly Gunston’s stunning catch after climbing a demon. However, the siren signalled halftime with the Hawks trialling by 13 points with a score of 25-38.
The third quarter had barely commenced when Weidman scored his second goal for the Demons just 48 seconds in as immediate possession by Melbourne registered a mark. The gap was increasing: 25-44. A beautiful sequence of disposals by Hawthorn was foiled after the ball was kicked into the stands. This loss of possession resulted in Melbourne’s Neal-Bullen gaining a behind and minutes later another behind was gained by Jake Melksham. This was followed by the Hawks’ Gunston earning a behind and Puopolo a goal. Hawthorn were undeterred and resilient and with the score at -32-46, the question was whether the Hawks could bring it back. Schoenmakers obtained a goal and Gunston a goal and behind, but unfortunately this was not enough. A flurry of goals and behinds by the Demons seemed to place Hawthorn’s dreams of the premiership out of reach. vanderBerg scored a behind, McDonald and Charlie Spargo a goal each, and there were three back-to-back demon goals in the space of six minutes by Neal-Bullen, Mitch Hannan, and Brayshaw.
Entering the final quarter, Melbourne were leading by 32 points. However, the fighting spirit was still alive within the Hawks who were determined to win. Hawthorn’s Isaac Smith scored the first goal of the quarter and Gunston followed suit minutes later with another goal followed by a behind. There seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the Hawks fans as Harry Morrison scored a behind and Roughead another goal eleven minutes in. The arena burst into ‘Hawthorn’ chants. However, this hope was short lived. A minute later, Melksham scored the Demons a goal after a beautiful kick, placing into momentum a behind, goal, behind, goal (Petracca-McDonald-James Harmes-Melksham) in the space of seven minutes. The Melbourne fans were bursting with excitement. Roughead did earn Hawthorn another goal but it was almost fruitless as Melbourne’s Spargo obtained a behind and Petracca a behind before the siren sounded the end of the match. With 91,152 people in attendance, the arena, erupted into the Demon’s theme song. The score: 71-104.
*holding the ball is when the player has the possibility to get rid of the ball but doesn’t and so forfeits possession