Hawthorn has been warned it faces a stiff challenge to win its second premiership under Alastair Clarkson, based on the manner in which grand final opponent Fremantle smothered reigning premier Sydney at the weekend.
Former Richmond forward Nathan Brown said he had "never seen pressure like it . . . a complete domination against a side that is very rarely dominated", while ex-St Kilda coach Stan Alves said the widely respected Swans were "made to look timid" against the Dockers and were panicked by the pressure imposed on them.
"That second quarter was as comprehensive an annihilation I've seen of a side. They just smashed them," Alves said on ABC radio, when the Dockers kicked 5.2 to 0.1. "It's hard to think of times I've seen Sydney taken apart in an area they think they own."
Former Essendon captain Matthew Lloyd declared he had "never seen the Swans midfielders dominated like they were".
"Every time there was a scrap it was won by the Fremantle Dockers," he said on Channel Nine's Sunday Footy Show.
"They were humiliated, probably worse than I've ever seen for the Sydney midfield."
While the final margin was 25 points, the Dockers were able to coast for the second half after leading by 39 points at half-time, 7.11 to 2.2.
"I think it's the best first half I've seen from any team this year," Lloyd said. "They just took the game away . . . the game was over."
St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt said based on the form displayed in the preliminary finals, he expected the Dockers to triumph in the grand final.
"I don't think any team can cope with what Freo dished up . . . there was no time, there was no space," he told Channel Seven's AFL Game Day.
Alves said Hawthorn, renowned for its precise kicking, would have to brace for a lower-than-normal proportion of uncontested possessions in the grand final because of the ability of the Dockers to deny their opponents time and space.
He also forecast the Hawk midfielders would have to do a lot of roving to Fremantle's dominant ruckman, Aaron Sandilands. Alves' only query about the Dockers was whether they could deny the Hawks space on the MCG, which is wider than Patersons Stadium.
Hawthorn 2008 premiership player Shane Crawford predicted Fremantle's Ryan Crowley, the league's dominant tagger, would be assigned the job of restricting midfielder Sam Mitchell, who can also be used on half-back. Crawford said such a match-up would not perturb him because of Mitchell's experience in coping with a tag.
"He probably won't have the 38 possessions he had on the weekend, but he'll still have a real influence," Crawford told the Sun-day Footy Show.
Ross Lyon told AFL Game Day that grand finals were "hard to get to but even harder to win".
"A great team lies in front of us, but if you want to be the best you've got to beat the best."