It was billed as the coldest AFL game of the season and the forecast delivered, with snow falling as Hawthorn thrashed GWS by 56 points in Canberra.
The crowd roared as the snow began to fall at the end of the first quarter in remarkable scenes at Manuka Oval as the ‘feels-like’ temperature dipped to -7C.
It was a historic night of lows — in scores and temperatures — and the undoubted star was Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson.
The mind games began before the game by the four-time premiership coach, who ran a lap of the oval without a shirt on to encourage his players to embrace the conditions.
He barely dressed up for the game itself, comically wearing shorts at the first-quarter hurdle and then a T-shirt at full-time.
“We knew it was going to be tough and hard footy,” Clarkson said. “Probably inspired a little bit by (legendary Hawks coach) John Kennedy, I remember one year at footy training he forgot his footy boots so he just came to training in bare feet in the middle of winter.
“Sometimes you’ve got to show the way with your players. You’ve got to play in tough conditions.”
There were 11,741 fans who braved the cold and witnessed the historic storm, which didn’t catch the locals off guard as some in the stands sported ski goggles.
Snow never blanketed the ground like the famous NRL game in Canberra between the Raiders and Wests Tigers in 2000, but there were sizeable flakes falling.
Clarkson doesn’t allow his players to wear long-sleeve jumpers and didn’t lift the ban in Canberra.
“It’s amazing we’ve been playing this game for well over 100 years and it’s the first time it’s been played in snow,” Clarkson said.
“The crowd was excited, our players were excited, we were excited, it doesn’t happen in league footy in our country.
“We get a lot of confidence out of the way we played tonight, they were unusual conditions and we adapted well.”
Among those was debutant Changkuoth Jiath — a refugee born in Ethiopia to South Sudanese parents. “CJ, he’s born in a country with plenty of sand,” Clarkson said. “He wouldn’t have thought his first game would be in the snow.”
It was the first AFL game played in snow conditions but that wasn’t the only piece of history on display, as the Giants slumped to their lowest ever score.
Hawthorn won 13.7 (85) to 4.5. (29) and are now responsible for the Giants’ two lowest scores this season, and their two lowest in club history. They kept GWS to 38 points in round eight and 31 points in the club’s inaugural year in 2012.
The Giants didn’t kick a second-half goal and had just one inside-50 all night as the Hawks sizzled in freezing conditions. “We are embarrassed, let’s be honest,” Cameron said.
“It was one of our worst losses for a long time. We need to put our hand up and take responsibility. Some things had been rearing their head (in recent games) and they surfaced tonight.
“But I’m really confident in our group, they’ve got a steely resolve to right the wrong and there were a lot of wrongs tonight.”
The Hawks dominated the opening exchanges of each quarter and kicked the first three goals in every term to dent the Giants’ top-four aspirations.
Hawthorn shared the goals with Tim O’Brien, Luke Breust, Mitchell Lewis and Paul Puopolo all bagging doubles, while James Sicily led their disposals with 33.
Coleman Medal leader Jeremy Cameron was quiet on return for GWS and booted one goal, but Toby Greene managed a game-high 38 disposals.