NAT Fyfe marked brilliantly over Jarryd Roughead, kicked at a goal and missed everything. Fyfe rose like a wraith, and marked again, and missed the lot again.
To the several shades of purple that helped to create such a striking visual effect at the MCG yesterday could now be added another: the complexion of Fremantle coach Ross Lyon's face. It was not yet midway through the first quarter.
The missing went on and on, and off and off. In the second quarter, Danyle Pearce kicked out one on the full, and Matthew Pavlich kicked a behind, and Fyfe got closer, but still missed; that behind would remain his only score in an otherwise admirable grand final for him. Hayden Ballantyne marked inside the forward 50, and kicked out on the full; Pavlich, meantime, flung his hands about unavailingly in the goal square. In the Fremantle box, puce was the new purple.
Fremantle had a bout of accuracy in the third quarter that put it back in the match. You could say it was a purple patch. But the jitters returned in the last. The Dockers had the last seven shots at goal for the match, but only Pavlich kicked one. If there was a moment when it could have been deemed safe to hand the premiership cup over to the engraver, it was when Ballantyne kicked at goal from 25 metres and sent it out on the full. Now the colour drained away altogether from Lyon's face.
It was followed by the miss that Hawthorn's now exultant fans most cherished, agent provocateur Ryan Crowley's. It was enough to bring a jeer to the eye.
Hawthorn's goalkicking was as much of a contrast to Fremantle's as it colours. The Hawks kicked away last year's grand final, and would not do it again. Jack Gunston kicked goals with his first four shots, from near and far. For Hawthorn, the dapper and rubbery Gunston was the joker in the pack in this finals series. So often in finals, the stars cancel out one another and role player becomes the difference.
Lance Franklin's kick from 50 metres in the first quarter fell short, but Luke McPharlin leapt over the mark, conceding 50 and another kick for Franklin from the goal-line. It would remain Franklin's only goal of the day on which he appeared to be fading from the Hawthorn scene. At the start of the last quarter, Isaac Smith kicked a left- foot ball-burster from 55 metres out anyway.
It is only a slight simplification to say that this is how the grand final was won and lost. Have a look at the stats: in the most fundamental KPIs, disposals and inside 50s, there was no separation. In the maul around the ball, it was the same.
Goals had to be unearthed from beneath this torrid struggle, and so the worth of each became measurable in carats. And the Hawks kicked them, not in their usual profusion, but enough to win this day, and Fremantle missed them, and kept on missing them.
Why, is for Hawthorn to know and Fremantle to spend the summer trying to ascertain. Conditions? The wind was strong enough to uproot little league goal posts in the pre-match, and remained swirly all day, but no more swirly for the Dockers than the Hawks. Grand final nerves? They were plain to see. The effect of Hawthorn's relentless attack on the Dockers' psyche, equal to or greater than their own? This also was self-evident.
In the almost naive drawing up of terms for this finale, this aspect of Hawthorn's excellence was overlooked. Captain Luke Hodge and perpendicular full-back Brian Lake were able to read not just the play, but minds, too. They were Hawthorn's pillars of Hercules.
Fremantle prides itself as the "anywhere, any time" team, but Hawthorn is the "anybody, any how" team. It averages nearly 20 goals, but won with 11. Lyon's teams are famously committed, but his way is draining. They begrudge opposition goals, but are miserly in kicking their own; goalkicking does not appear to come naturally. Yesterday, the Dockers rallied from 31 points down to trail by three late in the third quarter, but the effort told.
At three-quarter time, at least five Dockers had their hands on their knees. You knew then that their comeback was over.
Fremantle did not do itself justice. Partly, that was because it played a team resolved on making reparation for the injustice it did to itself last year. Partly, it was because the whole day became like so many moments in it for the exasperated Dockers, an opportunity missed.