Friday, August 21, 2015, 7.50pm AEST, Etihad Stadium, watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
Hawthorn Hawks: Third
Port Adelaide Power: 12th
Hawthorn Hawks: 14-5-0
Port Adelaide Power: 9-10-0
Last five games
Hawthorn Hawks: WWLWW
Port Adelaide Power: LWWLW
WHAT a difference a year makes.
Flash back almost 12 months and you’ll recall Hawthorn ($1.08 with WilliamHill.com.au) and Port Adelaide ($8 with CrownBet.com.au) played out one of the most memorable Preliminary Finals in recent history.
A six goal haul from dominant Hawks big forward Jarryd Roughead and some horrible kicking from the Power helped Hawthorn hold on by just three points in a thrilling 15.7 (97) to 13.16 (94).
The Hawks would go on to defend their premiership, while the Power left to soul search about what might have been had they been more accurate in the first term, after they booted 3.9 to 2.3 and went inside 50 17 times to seven.
Fast forward to today and these two sides have vastly different fortunes.
The Hawthorn machine is firing on all cylinders and is the out and out favourite to win the AFL premiership for the third time in succession.
By contrast, the Power has been gutted by the preliminary final defeat, limping to a 9-10 record and and consigned to a finish outside the top eight in a season where it was meant to challenge for the flag.
There has been some recent consolation for the Power fans to end the season on a high, though, with the side improving to win three of its last four games, including a 16.15 (111) to 13.12 (90) victory over the Greater Western Sydney Giants last week.
In that game, the Power put a massive dint in the finals hopes of the Giants with the 21 point win, led by young buck Brendon Ah Chee’s break through performance of three goals and 24 disposals.
Robbie Gray had 26 possessions and Sam Gray 25, while gun forward Chad Wingard, and Angus Monfries joined Ah Chee with three goals.
“We know we haven’t had obviously a great year but we just wanted to make sure we stood up and played some tougher footy and just stayed in the contest,” Hinkley said.
“I thought (the win over the Giants) was a really positive sign for us.
“They challenged us and we haven’t been able to respond to that challenge for most of the year and tonight we stood up really well.”
Meanwhile, the Hawks benefited from a Cyril special, the little master Rioli booting six goals as they hammered the Cats by six goals, 19.7 (121) to 12.13 (85).
The Hawks victory put a huge dent in the Geelong finals hopes, after the Cats had willed their way back into considerations with four wins on the trot.
Hawks captain Luke Hodge had an opening term to remember, booting three goals as the Hawks piled on seven goals to three to effectively end the contest.
He finished with 24 disposals and was one of the best players on the park, joined by the extractor Sam Mitchell with 28. Jordan Lewis, Grant Birchall and the consistent Lim Shiels all had 25 disposals in a very even team performance.
But it was all about Rioli.
Cyril kicked six of the best and the Cats simply had no answer.
It’s hard to recall a player who does so much with so little of the footy – he touched the football just 12 times in the match.
“It was a game that we were really wary of in terms of having to play some of our best footy,” Clarkson said.
The Hawks sit in third place, just two points behind West Coast in an intriguing run home that will decide whether they have to travel or get to stay at home in the first week of the finals.
“We can’t control that,” he said.
“If West Coast win their next three, they stay there,” he said.
“All we can control is what is in put in front of us and that is Port Adelaide.
“We’re working really hard to build up the wins and hopefully there’s enough at the end of the year to have us in the top two spots on the ladder.
“But if not, then we’ll just work our way through the finals series from whatever position we finish.”
Things get that much harder for the Power with news that key defender Jackson Trengove is done for the year after he went under the knife for shoulder surgery this week.
Young buck Tom Clurey will probably step in as cover against the Hawks and the Power could have some further good news with key forward Jay Schulz set to make his return after he pulled out of the GWS game with a sore back.
Ruck man Matthew Lobbe was dropped against the GWS, but he went back to the SANFL and had a ridiculous 64 hit outs. He should be back to combine with Paddy Ryder against the Hawks’ talls.
Meanwhile, the Hawks could welcome back their key ruckman Jon Ceglar, who missed the Cats’ game with a sore back.
The good news for the Hawks is they have nearly a clean bill of health, with lock down premiership midfielder Will Langford back in the mix after stepping out for Box Hill in the VFL on the weekend.
But general manager of football Chris Fagan said he will need another week before pushing for selection.
Of the Hawks key players, only cult figure Matt Spangher is on the rack, his ankle injury set to keep him out for another fortnight.
Match result: Hawthorn wins ($1.08 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: Hawthorn -45.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
The last time these two sides met, the Power with stood a fierce come back from the Hawks to take out an eight point win, 15.9 (99) to 13.13 (91), in a round four match up that would ultimately prove to be the highlight of Port Adelaide’s 2015 season. Schulz booted five goals, but the Hawks fought back from 58 points down in the second quarter to almost snatch it. Don’t expect anything similar. The Power have been woeful on the road and come up against a Hawthorn side that has the double motivation of a top two finish and revenge against one of only five teams to defeat it in 2015. The Hawks have won 13 of their last 14 matches at Etihad Stadium – the last three margins have been by 60, 63 and 138 points. We’re expecting much the same. There’s about 10 goals difference between two teams who have vastly different motivations in this one.
First goal scorer tips
Cyril Rioli ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
What a monster it was from Cyril on the weekend. There aren’t many better players to watch in full flight than this little man. His six goals equalled a career high. The previous career high came against – you guessed it – Port Adelaide. His big bag might just have kicked of some serious form. He’s spending more time in the forward line and he used to be the guy you picked for first goal if you weren’t dropping your hard earned on Lance Franklin. That bloke is gone and the Hawks forward line is a bit different, but you can guarantee if he lines up up front, Cyril will be every chance of delivering for punters.
Luke Hodge ($29 with sportsbet.com.au)
Booted three goals in the opening term last week, making a mockery of his match up with Cats’ superstar Joel Selwood. Is every chance of copping a Travis Boak type this week and dragging him forward to make him accountable too. If that happens, expect Hodge to make him pay. Had kicked only one goal in the past month before his bag of four against the Cats, which was the third best effort of his career. If that form is anything to go by, watch out Port.
Chad Wingard ($10 with sportsbet.com.au)
Criticised for his inability to make a big impact on the scoreboard in the first half of the season, this kid has been on a tear. One of the most damaging forwards in the game, Wingard can kill you in a variety of ways whether that be on the lead, on the deck or in one on one contests. His three majors against the Giants gave him 47 goals on the season – a career high after booting 43 in each of his last two campaigns – and has kicked at least three goals in nine of his past 10 games. That translates to danger signs for the Hawks. They will probably put more time into WIngard than any other Port player, but it won’t make much difference, the way he has been playing.
Justin Westhoff ($14 with sportsbet.com.au)
Westhoff is a rare breed of versatile. The star utility can play every position on the football ground and play them all very well. He has been hitting the score board often in the past month, with goals in each of the last four games, and the Power will need some added scoring punch against a Hawthorn side that is the most potent in the competition. Kicked two against the GWS and could be some value if he gets the nod up forward. It is worth waiting for selection though as the Power could welcome bak key spearhead Schulz. They may also opt to use Westhoff in defence as cover for the injured Trengove.
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