My thoughts seem to be fairly Freo-centric – Their performance was the main contributor to the result IMHO.
1. Freo did not handle the unrelenting pressure the Hawks applied in the first half. The key symptom of this is the quick kick out of defense, supposedly to relieve the pressure. Freo were constantly kicking the ball forward without a confirmed target – they were mostly bombing out of the backline, and the ball was rebounding just as quickly. This is something teams in the bottom half of the ladder, and the local U15 sides do. If you do not have a target, don’t kick the ball except in exceptional circumstances. At least kick it to a contest… Just don’t bomb it out, straight to an opposition player.
2. Ryan Crowley wasted his Grand Final. Sure, he stopped Mitchell, but what did that matter? The Hawks were constantly on top. I like Crowley, but simply stopping one player never wins a game, particularly in a Grand Final. Lyon should have told Crowley to start getting the ball and pumping it forward. Games are often won by players you never expect, or the ones without the massive reps – like Gunston, and Lake…
3. Hayden Ballantyne was very disappointing on the MCG. I can recall one passage of play (in the 2nd?) where he took a mark on the 50m line, and there was a Freo player clear, 5 metres in front of the goal square. Ballantyne flirted with a pass, but then decided to kick. The player was still free (was it Hill?) right up until the point where he started his approach. Poor decision making and general stage fright crushed Ballantyne. He missed everything with his kick and the Hawks rebounded. Ballantyne was the player who could win it for Freo, yet went missing – slipping over, making poor decisions, and missing shots.
4. Freo missing shots – enough said. Fyfe, Pav, and co couldn’t kick a goal to save themselves. I suspect that only having played twice(?) on the MCG in 2013 badly affected their accuracy. Teams that miss shots lose grand finals. Trust me, I know…
5. Lyon is the best coach in the competition – but his game style is unsustainable, as the Saints found out. You can keep it up for a couple of years, but it eventually wears a team down. Freo might be able to sustain it for another 12 months, but that will be about it. Lyon needs work through how his game plan will evolve into the next incaranation – Clarkson has done this very successfully. Either that, or Lyon needs to find another mature, under performing team who are ready to go. Like Freo are, like the Saints list he took over.
The Hawks were dominant pretty much all day, except for a few minutes in the third quarter. Even during this period of ascendancy, I never really expected Freo to win. There were unable to apply their game plan.
I worry about the soundness of Lyon’s game plan for the big day – it is starting to feel very inflexible, and there doesn’t appear to be a plan “B”. As I said when interviewed on the big screen at the 2010 replay at half time, when you are down, you need to “do something”. There was a spot in the 2nd quarter where I would have popped Pav on a wing or similar to change things up. Get Hawthorn reacting rather than controlling. I still think he should have done the same with Riewoldt in 2010 replay – at least try something.