It was the day the dynasty came to an end.
Hawthorn entered the 2016 finals series having been champions of the AFL for the past 3 years.
Donning the brown and gold were the likes of Hodge, Mitchell, Roughead and Burgoyne – triple premiership players with a plethora of finals experience. For them, playing in front of 85,000 people in September was the norm.
The week prior, Isaac Smith had missed a goal after the siren against the Cats, a goal that would’ve sent the Hawks to a preliminary final for the 5th year in a row.
Their opponents – The Dogs. Having just beaten the eagles in Perth, the Bulldogs were enjoying what was supposed to be their 15 minutes of fame, before a sweet dose of reality would bring them back down to earth and the Hawks would march on to the prelim.
However, not all things go to script.
The Dogs started the match on the back foot. Hawthorn had the rub of the green with the umpires once again, sending social media into meltdown with ‘#freekickhawthorn’ trending. on top of this, the Hawks had the first three goals of the game.
But as we saw during that prolific 2016 finals series, the dogs had a never-say-die attitude that propelled their game to series heights. You just couldn’t rule them out at any moment of the game.
A brilliant snap from Stringer, a clutch set shot from Clay Smith and an emerging Marcus Bontempelli highlighted a big second term for the Dogs who went into half-time trailing by one.
The third term best captured the way the Bulldogs played in the 2016 finals series. relentless pressure and team-lifting tackles. Dennis Cometti said it of the Hawks best – ‘They’re Rattled!’
Stringer kicked two more, Bontempelli was huge. The Bulldogs went into three quarter time 26 points ahead, and the AFL community had the same collective thought – ‘Surely not…’
The final term belonged to Liam Picken. The courageous number 42 kicked two goals and iced the game. Come final siren, the Dogs had won by 23 points.
Hawthorn were done. The dynasty was over and for the first time in three years, the AFL would have a new champion.
What a moment in AFL history this game would turn out to be for those scrappy Dogs.