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AFL finals week one: what we learned

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So much for all that about footy being on the wane – if the first round of the finals is anything to go by, the game has no problems whatsoever.

We were treated to three thrillers from four games, and even the ‘blowout’ was thrilling in its own way – as the Eagles cut Hawthorn to ribbons with relentless pressure and razor-sharp ball movement.

The Dogs and Crows gave the neutrals a classic on Saturday night, while the Tiger army made their presence heard before North Melbourne came home strongly to bounce them out.

Here are the lessons we learned.

Richmond and finals heartbreak go together like salt and pepper

You had to feel for Damien Hardwick late in Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to North Melbourne.

Not since the West Coast Eagles (2002-2004) had a side lost an elimination final three years in a row, but that’s what the Tigers managed to do.

And the real shame of it is – they’re a good side who made some real strides this year. But for whatever reason, come September they just can’t seem to take a trick.

At least this year they were competitive, after insipid efforts against Carlton and Port in the past two seasons.

The Tiger army brings so much to September. Let’s hope they might one day stick around longer than a week.

Ty Vickery and Jack Riewoldt take in yet another finals defeat. AAP image

Ty Vickery and Jack Riewoldt take in yet another finals defeat. AAP image

The Eagles can win it

The Hawks were widely thought to have too much finals experience for the Eagles, who had to deal with the withdrawal of Brownlow Medallist Matt Priddis just before the match.

But it was West Coast who attacked the contest with the greater ferocity, and the Hawks who looked shell shocked by the occasion.

Their second quarter was a masterclass in pressure and quality finishing.

Luke Shuey was magnificent, Josh Kennedy kicked big goals and their makeshift back line held firm against a very potent Hawks attack.

Adam Simpson was doing his best to appear calm during his post-match presser, but he must be feeling euphoric about what his side is capable of.

Simpson’s biggest headache over the next fortnight will be trying to decide who the unlucky men to make way for the returning Priddis and Chris Masten will be.

Hawthorn can’t win it

There have been signs all year the Hawks have slipped.

The losses to Essendon and Port Adelaide (twice) – both sides that finished outside the top eight – were clear signs that the focus and intensity of years gone by wasn’t where it needed to be.

It was those defeats that forced them to travel interstate for their first final, and now their path to a premiership must take another trip out west to tackle Fremantle, should they get past Adelaide this weekend.

Winning three flags in a row is tough, very tough.

It’ll be too tough for Hawthorn.

Fremantle still aren’t at their best, but they’re getting there

Much of the talk after this game was about how vulnerable Fremantle are, and the Swans did kick themselves out of the game.

But in the first quarter-and-a-half you got the feeling the Dockers machine was finally cranking into gear after an indifferent second half of the season.

Nat Fyfe will be better for the run, and the whole side will be better off for another rest.

The Eagles may have inherited the mantle of premiership favouritism, but the Dockers are the side I’d like to be coaching.

There will always be unenlightened people in the world

Adam Goodes was booed. Again.

The 35-year-old wound back the clock in a terrific performance, and sections of the Subiaco crowd gave it to him every time he got near it.

It doesn’t matter what get said, or what gets done – there will always be a few morons. Sad but true.

Sydney champion Adam Goodes was booed again on the weekend. AAP image

Sydney champion Adam Goodes was booed again on the weekend. AAP image

The Dogs are electric

Ok so they are gone, but what an exciting side the young Dogs are, and just how much they can achieve over the next few years will be fascinating.

Jake Stringer is a marvel, and think of what they’ll be like when you put an extraction machine like Tom Liberatore back in the side.

Luke Beveridge must be very excited about the next few years.

Adelaide have big, big hearts

What the Crows went through earlier this year would have torn the heart out of most clubs.

No one would have blamed Adelaide if they just went through the motions after the tragic death of Phil Walsh.

The fact they are still competing, and competing majestically, into the second week of finals is a huge accomplishment, and everyone at West Lakes should be proud of what they’ve been able to achieve.

– The New Daily

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