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Clarko’s Hawks have hit the ‘threepeat’ button

IT'S confession time.

My earliest footballing memory was watching 'my team' Hawthorn get overrun by Kevin Sheedy's Essendon in the 1984 VFL grand final.

The next earliest was cheering on the Bombers as they smashed the Hawks in the premiership-decider 12 months later.

Yes, I had flip-flopped - I was only seven or eight after all - and my best mate was a big fan of the red and black.

But it didn't end there. By the 1986 grand final, blood had proven to be thicker than water, and with my family having lived in Hawthorn itself during the 1960s, and my brother being a mad Hawk, I was back on the brown and gold, which has been flowing through my veins ever since.

Thankfully.

With all due respect to Essendon, the club has given its supporters a couple of outstanding premierships (in 1993 and 2000), but they've also had to endure more than their fair share of hardships in recent times.

Hawthorn fans have been blessed - probably to the point it has made those of rival clubs, such as Melbourne for instance, sick.

The Demons, who haven't won a flag since 1964, St Kilda (1966), the Western Bulldogs (1954) and Richmond (1980) have all been biding their time until their next success.

As well as its first ever in 1961, and three in the 1970s, Hawthorn won five premierships in nine seasons between 1983 and 1991, and on Saturday collected its third in a row and fourth in the past eight years.

But while they're telling Hawks fans to shove their now 13 premiership cups, rival supporters must also at least appreciate the level of greatness Alastair Clarkson's team has risen to, with the 'threepeat', putting them alongside Carlton (1906-08), Collingwood (1927-30), Melbourne (1939-41 and 1955-57) and Brisbane (2001-03).

Is it too early to talk about a 'fourpeat'? Sorry, just another bloody Hawks supporter getting ahead of himself.

KEYS TO HAWK SUCCESS

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

To go back-to-back, Hawthorn overcame a dominant Sydney, which had taken arguably its best player, Lance Franklin, and endured a horrendous run of injuries throughout the season. This year, they overcame losing in the first week of the finals and not only having to endure four weeks of finals footy, but two trips to Perth. They join Brisbane (2003), Sydney (2005) and West Coast (2006) as the only clubs in the era of the final eight system (since 1994) to have got to a grand final after losing the qualifying final.

LIST MANAGEMENT

Now known as the 'Destination Club', the Hawks have been the masters of attracting talent to fulfil specific needs, usually by shrewd trading of draft picks, with outstanding results. Even James Frawley, who became their first free agent acquisition, but was lambasted midway through the year, stood up when it counted, keeping Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy goalless on Saturday.

FITNESS

The durability - and in turn continued on-field leadership - of 30-somethings Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Brian Lake, Josh Gibson, Shaun Burgoyne and David Hale ensured the Hawks would be the oldest (at an average 27 years, 304 days) to win a flag. You could say it's one for the ages. The heat - up to 31.3 degrees - was supposed to get to the older boys, but the pressure-cooker atmosphere got to the younger Eagles. Fitness guru Andrew Russell, who Clarkson brought over from Port Adelaide in 2004, has been pivotal.

SKILL LEVEL

The Hawks have been carving up opponents with precision, and David Rath, the Hawks' head of coaching services, who was dubbed the 'mad scientist in shorts', can take a bow. Clarkson apparently offered to forgo a portion of his salary when first hired to get him to the club. Rath took them from the worst kicking side in 2004 to the best. With many of them coming from pinpoint passing, the Hawks took 295 marks to the opposition's 146 in the past two weeks. The freakish talents of Cyril Rioli and co also helps.



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