Harbouring a deep respect for Hawthorn, it was reasonably predictable that they would bring their trademark effort to Optus Stadium for possibly their final game of the 2019 season.
If they could upset West Coast in their home cauldron, with a slice of luck – and some results falling their way that were far from fanciful – they could sneak into the bottom end of the top eight and play finals.
So the Eagles knew what to expect from the team wearing the brown and gold stripes, although on this occasion it was gold with a brown V.
In the weeks leading into this encounter, Hawthorn had adopted a care-free approach, even laughing at the novelty when playing GWS in arctic conditions in Canberra, snow falling during their Friday night encounter in the nation’s capital.
It seemed the theme was for them to have fun and to see where that took them. That same devil-may-care attitude prevailed against the Eagles – they enjoyed all that they were doing and the camaraderie was visible in virtually every play.
The enthusiastic Hawks got away to a flying start, veterans Shaun Burgoyne and Isaac Smith in the thick of it, before the Eagles pegged them back to take an eight-point lead at quarter time.
If there was a sense that normal order had been restored, it was quickly erased in the second term as the Hawks continued to play with good energy, and there were alarming signs in the Eagles camp, which looked lethargic and shell-shocked.
The Hawks rattled on five goals to one in the term and they were never again headed as they carved out an impressive victory – 16.9 (105) 9.13 (67).
Hawthorn adopted the unusual ploy of using ruckman Ben McEvoy in a defensive role on Josh Kennedy, teaming with James Frawley to make life difficult for the dual Coleman medallist and his colleague Jack Darling.
The signs were ominous early when skipper Shannon Hurn made a beeline to the bench in the opening minutes citing hamstring ‘awareness’. He would play out the rest of the game, but could not go beyond 80 per cent.
Teammates who were not impeded could produce no greater drive, and it resulted in the Eagles conceding a top four position as a result.
Midfield accumulator Andrew Gaff was one man who maintained his own lofty standards with a stand-out 37-possession performance, while Elliot Yeo and Luke Shuey, who had also been rewarded with positions in the initial 40-man all-Australian squad, tried to lift their teammates but could not elevate them to victory.
Defender Lewis Jetta, one man prepared to channel the ball through the corridor, backing in his skill, was also a strong influence, while Willie Rioli produced some of his signature class and skill with three goals, as well as setting teammates in motion.
Young forward Jake Waterman worked hard up and down the ground, offering himself as an outlet player, and was rewarded with 11 marks and 20 possessions.
West Coast Eagles 4.3 5.8 7.11 9.13 67
Hawthorn 3.3 8.6 11.6 16.9 105
West Coast Eagles: Rioli 3; Kennedy, Darling, Ryan 2
Hawthorn: O’Brien 4; Breust, Burgoyne 3; Gunston 2; Smith, Nash, Henderson, Sicily