LIFE OF BRIAN: Hawthorn’s Brian Lake holds aloft the premiership cup.
LIFE OF BRIAN: Hawthorn’s Brian Lake holds aloft the premiership cup.

Emotion runs deep in Lake win for ‘rejects’

THE beaming smile on the face of young Cohen Lake said it all.

Wearing a brown and gold jumper with the No.17 on his back, the little fella sprinted out on to the MCG surface moments after the final siren sounded on Saturday.

Once he had got to his dad, he threw his arms around his father's neck in an unforgettable image of jubilation.

Soon after, two medals were draped around the same neck with Brian Lake accepting his premiership medallion and the Norm Smith Medal as the best player in Hawthorn's dour 11.11 (77) to 8.14 (62) grand final victory over a spirited Fremantle.

Cohen was certainly too young to remember his father's disappointment at being a part of three straight losing preliminary finals with the Western Bulldogs from 2008-2010. In fact, he would barely recall his dad even playing in the red, white and blue at all.

Twelve months is a long time in a footy, whether you're just five or 31 years of age.

Entering the twilight of his career and with the Bulldogs entering a rebuilding period, Lake agreed to a trade to the Hawks last year - even it meant taking a pay cut.

The burly full-back was seen as the possible answer in Hawthorn's push for the second flag under coach Alastair Clarkson.

The premiership had eluded them the previous two seasons, when finishing third in 2011 and runner-up in 2012, and so the Hawks were happy to take a chance with the ageing defender.

It wasn't until Saturday however that the move was put to the ultimate test.

Standing tall in the Hawks defence with his judgement, strength and composure on show in front of 100,000 fans, Lake took 10 marks (seven from Dockers kicks), had nine spoils and was a deserved and incredibly popular winner of the coveted best-on-ground award.

Fellow backman Josh Gibson was patting him on the back before Carlton champ Greg Williams announced the winner on the podium; he was then set upon by every teammate when his name was read out.

Ironically, the chairman of selectors in voting for the Norm Smith was Lake's coach in his final year at Whitten Oval, Brendan McCartney.

While the Bulldogs mentor gave Lake one vote, he saved his three for Jack Gunston.

The 21-year-old would also have been a worthy winner.

Highlighted by his agility, goal sense and strength beyond his slender frame, Gunston stepped up with his second successive four-goal haul, including a beauty from the goalsquare, while Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard.

If it was 'Buddy's' final game in Hawk colours before a move to GWS - and his emotions after the game suggested it may well be - the Hawks attack looks safe in the sure hands of Gunston who Adelaide was bitterly disappointed to lose two years ago.

Heading into the preliminary final against Geelong at least one wag referred to the Hawks as 'Clarkson's Rejects'.

While it is true some of Hawthorn's 'pick-ups' have been happily given up by their former clubs - Brent Guerra from St Kilda (2006), David Hale from North Melbourne (2010), Jonathan Simpkin from Geelong (2012) - others such as Gunston from the Crows (2011), Gibson from the Roos (2009) and Shaun Burgoyne from the Power (2009) requested moves to become extended members of the 'family club'.

All were accepted into the fold by Clarkson to serve a specific purpose and all have been an unmitigated success - and all now have a premiership to prove it.