Luke Hodge in action against GWS Giants.
Luke Hodge in action against GWS Giants.

Robinson: Footy will miss ultimate warrior

Brisbane's fairytale run is over, and so is the career of the legendary Luke Hodge.

The Lions were beaten by GWS in a furious and intense semi-final and the Giants will now meet Collingwood in next week's preliminary final.

The final score was 12.11 (83) to 11.14 (80).

In his final match, Hodge was among the best players on the ground.

Coach Chris Fagan made the announcement after the game, praising him as a leader.

"He's finished on a high note and he's been unbelievable for us," he said.

Fagan said the outgoing Hodge would be sorely missed on the field.

"He's the best leader I've seen, one of the toughest players I've seen, a warrior and a really intelligent player.

"He's one of the all-time greats."

 

Buy today's Sunday Herald Sun for a chance to win AFL Grand Final tickets

 

Hodgey's great mates, former Hawks teammates Jordan Lewis, Jarryd Roughead and Grant Birchall, flew north to watch his last game.

Despite the loss, Hodge's lap of honour after the siren gave heartbroken Lions a reason to salute.

What a career it was.

 

Luke Hodge put his body on the line until the end.
Luke Hodge put his body on the line until the end.

 

 

There have been better players, but hardly better careers.

Four flags. Three as captain. Two Norm Smiths. Ultimate warrior. Ultimate respect.

At 35, his body is failing.

There will be another time to recognise his impact at Hawthorn, and at Brisbane and on the game itself.

But it's safe to say he will be among a small group of players from this era who will be considered as a future AFL legend.

There's Gazza and Buddy and surely there is Hodgey, the man's man of football.

He didn't always do the right things on and off the field, but along his journey were moments - and plenty of them - of leadership and inspiration.

Legend fits accordingly.

 

Luke Hodge (right) says goodbye after his last AFL game.
Luke Hodge (right) says goodbye after his last AFL game.

It was a final not so much for the ages, but it was a final of immense intensity and demand.

The final quarter was epic in the sense that every possession, every tackle, every mark had a bearing on the final result.

The Giants defence will be tired.

As a group, they withstood a withering and dominant final quarter from the Lions.

The Giants led for most of the quarter until Allen Christensen kicked the go-ahead goal with five minutes to play.

The heaving Lions crowd was silenced however, when Brent Daniels stole Christensen's glory with a running banana goal with 2:30 to play.

The next 150 seconds was football at its most pulsating.

Again, the Giants were firm at the back and, when it was needed most, won the ball in the midfield.

That sounds so simple, but it was anything but simple.

Players from both teams threw themselves at the ball and contests and, in the end, the Giants were in front.

 

Brent Daniels celebrates after kicking the matchwinning goal.
Brent Daniels celebrates after kicking the matchwinning goal.

 

Either of these two teams were worthy of being winners, but it was the Giants at the siren.

Coach Leon Cameron has his critics, with some observers suggesting the AFL would prefer others to coach the Giants, but this was his night.

His team kicked the first four goals before the Lions wrested momentum

They were jittery again, the Lions, and wasteful with their opportunities in what was a hostile environment for the visitors.

The umpires' review will be interesting.

Brisbane forward Charlie Cameron appeared to dislocate his elbow early in the first quarter.

He left the field and returned with a heavily bandaged arm.

 

 

When Adam Kennedy attempted to bump/touch/tap Cameron's arm, he was warned by the umpire for not acting "in the spirit of the game''.

What an extraordinary comment.

It raises the question what is in the spirit of the game when it's a cut-throat final and Cameron is on the field playing.

It makes him fair game for the intimidation and pressure in a final.

Sadly, it seemed PC - those two confusing letters in modern society - had enveloped the football field.

And so had the Giants

After the Lions rescued a terrible first half of the first quarter and led at quarter-time, the Giants controlled the next two quarters.

Even in the face of the final-quarter inside 50m domination from Brisbane, the plucky Giants did not lose control.

 

GWS coach Leon Cameron embraces Toby Greene after the siren.
GWS coach Leon Cameron embraces Toby Greene after the siren.

 

Football is mostly about the midfielders and the goalkickers, but this game was won because of the unity, calmness and maturity of the Giants' back six.

They will need to do the same against the potency of Collingwood's forward group on Saturday night.

There were key match-ups.

Lachie Neale was curtailed by Matt de Boer and Lachie Whitfield was curtailed by Nick Robertson, who was the replacement for the injured Mitch Robinson.

Clearly, the Lions had their chances.

It was 19-7 their way with inside-50s in the final quarter and they kicked 2.5 to the Giants' 2.1.

The same lack of scoring plagued them last week against Richmond.

They will work on it over summer, minus one important ingredient.

Hodgey's gone and the Lions, and football itself, is now a poorer place.

mark.robinson@news.com.au

 

 

Stream every match of the 2019 Toyota AFL Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >

 


Stream every match of the 2019 Toyota AFL Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >