Unpopular picks come back to lift the Hawks

SEASON 2004 was a time of frustration for Hawthorn after it had completed its worst campaign since 1965, winning four matches and finishing second last on the ladder.

There was frustration from sacked senior coach Peter Schwab, who had a parting shot at the club's recruiting staff for having chosen Luke Hodge as its No.1 draft pick over Chris Judd three years earlier.

There was also frustration from prominent Hawk supporter and sports presenter Steve Quartermain over the untried Alastair Clarkson being named as Schwab's replacement. "As I said, they are struggling," he said on-air after delivering the news on Channel 10.

But, just 10 years on, Hodge and Clarkson stand as unofficial legends after playing the most critical roles in a rare back-to-back premiership win on Saturday when destroying overwhelming favourite Sydney - and claiming a third flag in seven seasons.

The shrewd planning and tactical genius of "Clarko" and the inspirational leadership and all-round footy smarts of "Hodgy" is unsurpassed in the modern game.

Clarkson now joins the great John Kennedy as a three-time premiership coach with the Hawks - and the man who led them to their first three flags in 1961, '71 and '76, would be happy to see the little fella go past him and Allan Jeans (1983, '86, '89).

Clarkson was struck down mid-season by the debilitating Guillain-Barre syndrome, just one of the many setbacks his club had to overcome.

Hodge may not have the two Brownlow medals Judd has in his keeping, but he now has three premiership medallions (two more than Judd), and, as the ultimate big-game player, two Norm Smith medals (one more than Judd).

Ahead of what was his 250th game, the Hawks' banner read "Our Captain. Our General. Our Warrior", and he played accordingly.

Hodge (35 disposals, 12 marks, two goals) was so omnipresent even Swans defender Gary Rohan couldn't help pinpointing a pass to him in the second term when kicking out from fullback. The skipper set the tone for a return to the Hawks' "unsociable football" nature of 2008 by delivering a bone-jarring tackle on Lewis Jetta in the first term.

Hodge was, of course, not alone in setting standards, with every Hawk shellshocking the Swans, from other members of the leadership group, namely ex-skipper Sam Mitchell and future skipper Jordan Lewis, down to Will Langford in his 20th game.

In a brutal performance, the Hawks were relentless in their attack on the man, ball and scoreboard as they produced the 10th biggest win in a premiership-decider.

Seduced by the Swans' frenetic run and potent attack during the back end of the season, most would have been expecting a momentum shift at some point, but it never came.

As the Hawks bask in their glory, the Swans will do much soul-searching over the summer, especially the 13 players who had 11 disposals or less, starting with Jetta (4), Rohan (7) and Sam Reid (8).

Lance Franklin, meanwhile, will have to front many of his ex-Hawk teammates again as a groomsman at Jordan Lewis' wedding next month.

Wonder if there'll be another kiss waiting for him from Hodge.

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