With a premiership on the line, Fremantle, Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney have it all to play for. The four best sides in the competition are only eight quarters away from claiming the 2013 premiership cup.
A flag is always important, but what it means to each team often differs. Other than the prestige and bragging rights for the next 12 months, teams often have added incentives for winning a flag. So what do the four teams left in the premiership hunt have for motivation beyond the immediate glory?
Fremantle is one of only three current teams in the AFL that is yet to win a premiership or even competed in a Grand Final. The other two clubs to have this unfortunate piece of trivia are Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, and with only five completed seasons between the sides, they can be excused.
Fremantle, however, has competed in the AFL since 1995, making the finals only five times in its 19 seasons. There can be no more excuses for this success-starved club. Their intentions were clear from the moment Ross Lyon was headhunted by the Dockers’ board to take over from still-contracted Mark Harvey. With that one swift move, Fremantle declared to the competition that only the best was good enough for a club with a long history of mediocrity.
This season, Fremantle has flown under the radar of the more-fancied Hawks, Cats and Swans, quietly going about its business, confident that it had the personnel and the game-plan to shake up September. Fremantle did exactly that when it defeated Geelong at Simonds Stadium to secure the first home preliminary final in the club’s history.
If Fremantle defeat reigning premiers Sydney and the winner of Hawthorn vs. Geelong, the West Australian club will finally place a trophy in a cabinet that has been gathering dust since 1995. The time has come for this side to cast aside their historical failures and create a new era of success. It’s time for the club to create history.
Geelong: a dynasty
In 2007, Geelong won the Grand Final in emphatic fashion. In 2008, the Cats fell at the final hurdle in a season that they dominated. In 2009, they gained redemption for the missed opportunity in the previous year. In 2010, Geelong was eliminated in the preliminary final and appeared to have been surpassed by Collingwood and St. Kilda. In 2011, Geelong dismissed these notions by winning a third premiership in five years. In 2012, Geelong was eliminated in the first week of the finals series, and it appeared once again as if the club that had created a legacy were destined for a rebuild.
Here we are again, in 2013, with Geelong ready to launch an attack on a fourth premiership in seven seasons. Geelong has already created a legacy. Another flag and they’ve established a dynasty.
Of the 22 players that took the field in the 2007 Grand Final, only ten remain at the club. And yet, the club is in a sixth preliminary final in seven years, proving how strong not only the team, but the club itself is.
The culture of success at the Cattery has been evident even in their VFL-affiliated side, with the Geelong reserves competing in their own Grand Final this year. Geelong is a team that has defied expectations in creating a legacy of success. It’s time for the club to prove that they have created a dynasty.
Hawthorn reached the pinnacle of the footballing world in 2008, and was expected to stay there. How the mighty fell, missing the finals in 2009, and beginning a slow climb back to the top. This climb culminated in a Grand Final appearance last season before the Hawks fell at the final hurdle.
The expectations have been high since 2008, and with a strong list as well as a strong culture, Hawthorn is ready to seek redemption. Redemption for the three wasted seasons languishing behind the best teams in the competition. Redemption for the 11 wasted matches against Geelong after the success of 2008. Redemption for the Grand Final loss of last year.
Since the failure of 2009, Hawthorn has improved every season, with an elimination final loss, followed by a preliminary final loss, followed by a Grand Final loss. It is time to improve again.
Hawthorn will face Geelong this week, and should they break the Kennett Curse, then a Grand Final rematch against Sydney is a strong possibility. If these results are to culminate and Hawthorn prevails, redemption will be reached. If Hawthorn falls yet again at either hurdle, the team will have to get back up and keep seeking the success that the list should be talented enough to deliver.
Of the 35 players that Sydney has utilised this season, the average age is over 25 years. This makes Sydney the oldest team in the AFL, with seven players on the Swans’ list over the age of 30. Two of those players – Jude Bolton and Martin Mattner – as well as 26-year-old Mitch Morton have already announced their retirement. Paul Roos has officially left Sydney in all capacities, taking up the role as senior coach at Melbourne. The heroes of 2005 are beginning to hand over responsibility of Sydney to the heroes of 2012.
Players like Bolton, Adam Goodes and Ryan O’Keefe helped re-establish the Bloods culture that led Sydney to the ultimate success in 2005. As these senior Swans begin to think about life beyond footy, the revitalisation of the list has already begun.
Tom Mitchell, Brandon Jack, Jed Lamb and Dane Rampe are just a number of young Swans ready to lead the new generation of Bloods. The club that they will inherit has a strong culture defined by work ethic and selflessness. If Sydney can find a way to defy the odds and win a second flag in as many years, the legacy that these young Swans will inherit will be one of success.
The possibility for these club legends to leave the game as triple-premiership players is a salivating idea. It would be easy to formulate an argument that Sydney are not far behind Geelong as the most successful club in the post-Brisbane era.
This is the legacy that awaits Sydney should they reach the pinnacle of the footballing world once again. This is what’s at stake. This is what September is about. This is greatness.