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All things must pass

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson expects a strong response from his team after losing to Geelong.
Alastair Clarkson is in denial about the end of Hawthorn's era.
Photo Source: AAP

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Dogs can go all the way
Just as they did against West Coast the previous week, the Bulldogs won this game with their brilliant midfield, as they simply outran and outpressured their opponents, while also dominating the stoppages and contested ball. And who says you need to have dominant key forwards to win finals? Jake Stringer, Marcus Bontempelli, Josh Dunkley, Clay Smith and co are more than a handful in attack if the ball keeps coming down to them, but it is the Bulldogs' team defence that makes them so tough to beat. They simply allow teams no time and no room, a game style which works against even the best midfields. Bet against them from here at your own peril.

Defence wins the big ones
Every September one football truism stands out above everything else: defence wins you finals. All the talk before Saturday night's semi was of how dangerous the Crows forward line of Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch was, and how the Swans would struggle to contain them. But the Swans ended the regular season on top of the ladder for several reasons, one of them being that they are the best defensive side in the competition. All Australian Nick Smith nullified Betts, Jeremy Laidler did likewise on on Lynch, while Dane Rampe had the better of Walker, and Heath Grundy completely dominated Jenkins, who seemed to carry an injury into the game. Aliir Aliir also played his role. The Swans were able to move the ball out of defence with more ease and surety than the visitors all night.

Wise words from George Harrison
After the end of the era of one of the greatest bands of all time, former Beatle George Harrison released the song and album: "All things must pass" in recognition of the transient nature of life, and musical groups. And so it is with football. The Hawks have been formidable, superb, arguably the best ever, but with their aging list and doubts still over whether Jarryd Roughead will ever be able to get back to his best, the great Hawthorn era is now officially over. Post-loss, coach Alastair Clarkson denied this was the case and not to write them off – but what else was he going to say?

Swans make light of injuries
The loss before half-time of two more from their starting 22 didn't appear to have much effect on Sydney's performance. The Swans are having no luck with injury right now, but importantly, their midfield group is healthy, and the fact that they have given seven debutants games means their list runs very deep.

Beveridge won the battle of the coaches
Luke Beveridge showed he knows the finals caper alright. When things were going south in the second quarter and his team was down by 23 points, he swung Jason Johannisen and Marcus Bontempelli forward, and pushed Liam Picken into the middle. The match-winning moves changed the momentum, with the Dogs' pressure around the ball lifting, and their scoring was quick to follow suit.

Hawks may have buyer's remorse
Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson all re-signed with the Hawks earlier this year but the questions will come about whether they acted too soon, now that they are out in the semi finals. There is no denying they can all still play, but you have to wonder at the wisdom of giving the veterans so much control over their own destinies, as not everyone gets the call right on when is best for both player and club to retire. The Kangaroos' culling of their own four veterans might have seemed harsh at the time, but it looks correct. Compare also the Bulldogs' handling of Matthew Boyd, who had an offer ripped out from underneath his nose in August and had to basically play for his spot all year, only now being rewarded with an extension.

Bullies' banners brilliant
Ever since the Western Bulldogs gave Melbourne comedian Danny McGinlay the job of coming up with the words for their banners, he has never let his team or the footballing public down. On Friday night he pinpointed the mood of the nation: "Tonight the Hawks have 75000 members but the Bulldogs have 24 million supporters." In a stellar year, some of McGinlay's other rippers have included: "It's a night game, that explains the mid-strength Carlton"; "The only place North Melbourne should be ahead of Footscray is on the St Albans line"; and "At the end of the match we'll still be cheering, you'll still be worried about your negative gearing" (against Melbourne, of course). Give the man an award please, AFL.

Stray thoughts
- Luke Breust's miss from close range in the second quarter proved a key moment on Friday night. He could have increased Hawthorn's lead to 27 points, had he nailed it, and the momentum might just have been too much for the Bulldogs to overcome.

- We'll say it now: if GWS and Geelong lose next week, watch the proverbial hit the fan in regards to the AFL's knee-jerk insertion of the pre-finals bye.

- We don't get the joy of running a Power Rankings through the finals series, but anybody that wants to apologise for the almost weekly sledging about rating the Western Bulldogs too high can use the forum below.

What did you make of the semi-finals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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