SYDNEY CAME FROM behind in the final term to win their fifth premiership by 10 points over Hawthorn in a classic Grand Final at the MCG.
In a seesawing encounter that went right down to the wire on Saturday, the Swans led by 28 points 10 minutes into the third term after booting eight unanswered goals.
But a booming set shot from David Hale rebooted the Hawthorn challenge. Former Kerry star Tommy Walsh didn’t play.
They kicked seven of the next eight goals either side of three-quarter time to lead by 12 points six minutes into the final term, having kicked the first two majors of the last quarter through Luke Breust and Hale himself. Favourites heading into the game, Hawthorn appeared well in control of the contest against a Sydney side that appeared out on their feet.
But as they have done time and time again over the last 10 years, the Swans rallied for one final challenge, and as Hawthorn kicked themselves out of the game by booting five straight behinds, Sydney hustled and bustled and willed themselves forward to boot four goals. It was not until the last minute that the result was sealed, however, as the ball broke from a stoppage to Nick Malceski 25 metres from goal.
The Swans defender wrote himself into club folklore by snapping a goal with 34 seconds remaining to secure the 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81) triumph.
The Swans built their premiership victory on the back of an exceptional tackling game as they had 109 tackles to 84.
The man leading the way for Sydney in this department was veteran Ryan O’Keefe, who had 15 tackles of his own to go with 28 possessions and seven clearances as he appropriately picked up the Norm Smith medal for Best on Ground.
O’Keefe had a fair bit of competition for the award, however, as Dan Hannebury posted 29 disposals and a goal while Josh Kennedy (26 disposals), Jarrad McVeigh (21) Malceski (17) and Mitch Morton all booted two goals apiece.
Hannebury’s goal 12 minutes into the final quarter cut Hawthorn’s lead to just six points and a draw appeared on the cards as Kieren Jack slotted one from close range in the 19th minute to level the scores after some great work by Morton, who beat two Hawthorn defenders to get the ball to Jack.
A massive mark from a kick-in followed from Canadian surprise packet Mike Pyke, who rucked throughout the last quarter after Shane Mumford was subbed from the game, and that mark allowed Adam Goodes to disregard his knee injury and roll one home and extend the lead out to seven points. Still Hawthorn came as they took the ball forward time and again, but a terrible set shot miss from Jack Gunston (two goals) in the 25th minute from 30 metres out, followed by two snap-shot behinds from Brad Sewell saw the chance of another draw go out the window as the margin was cut back to four points.
Sydney weren’t to be denied, though, and Malceski’s snapped goal sealed the contest as Hawthorn lost their first Grand Final since being beaten by Carlton in 1987.
For the Swans, though, it is just their second premiership triumph since 1933, with their other Grand Final win coming by one point over West Coast in another thriller back in 2005.