A Hawthorn side missing the reigning Brownlow Medalist, Tom Mitchell, and largely featuring in most tipster’s bottom 4 placings this year have travelled interstate to South Australia, and knocked off an Adelaide Crows outfit, inversely expected to be in the top 4 come the end of the year by 32 points in a huge boil over.
Experienced heads Jack Gunston and Luke Breust stood up early on a tough day for the forwards, as the young Hawks midfield lead by Jimmy Worpel and Jaeger O’Meara took advantage of an Adelaide side caught over-possessing the footy on plenty of frustrating occasions.
To be perfectly blunt, this match sucked. I’m quite comfortable in saying that the AFLW preliminary final earlier in the day was of a higher standard skills-wise and a far more entertaining game. Admittedly the last 5 minutes were fantastic. Adelaide decided to fight it out to the end, and up until Ben McEvoy’s second goal, they were well and truly a chance to pinch it with a late flurry. The other three and a half quarters? If you’re into over-possessing the footy and fumbling, this was your jam.
But were the Hawks that great, or did Adelaide lose this? Here’s The Mongrel Wrap Up to cover how things went at the Adelaide Oval.
BEST ON GROUND
Jimmy Worpel – When the game was on the line in the second quarter, this bloke stood up massively. The much vaunted 6-6-6 rule change has seen some of the premier midfielders in the competition now much more capable of taking the ball from a centre bounce and running it through the middle with ease. Cripps, Dusty, Danger, they’ve all shown it so far this round. But, I’d say Worpel cutting through the Adelaide midfield and banging the ball inside 50 looked the most damaging midfielder so far this round.
Two goals in a very low scoring game was the icing on the cake.
Ben McEvoy – I reckon Sammy Jacobs was BOG to quarter time, effectively playing as an extra midfielder, and dragging some Crows midfielders into the game with him. From quarter time onwards, Ben McEvoy was far and away the most influential big man on the ground. Although there really wasn’t much competition on a shocking day for the talls, McEvoy continued to clunk marks all around the ground, provided a fantastic target out of defence and also bobbed up for 2 goals (both against the run of play).
James Sicily – Simply put, James Sicily gave Tex Walker a bath today. Embarrassed him on his home deck in front of his friends and family. We’ll talk about Tex soon, but Sicily was sensational in his own right. His ability to hit targets by foot coming out of defense stood out on a day that clean possession wasn’t easy to be found. A match-leading 10 marks (Walker only had 6) and going at 84% efficiency only tell half the story. Usually an 80%+ ratio will be for blokes with a high handball to kick ratio. Sicily had 22 kicks and 4 handballs, whilst trying out some audacious kicks out of defence amongst them. A very good defender’s game.
WORST ON GROUND
Tex Walker – Tex’s pregame interview with Nick Dal Santo raised eyebrows. Dal Santo, one of the more polished performers in the media, made a small faux pas in referring to how Port Adelaide will play today, rather than Tex’s Crows, prompting Tex to stop dead in his tracks and sarcastically mention that he didn’t realize he played for the Power. It wasn’t a good look mere minutes before a game (Walker was literally jogging to his position in the forward line as the interview was being conducted). As if a player can be that easily distracted from the task at hand to quibble over semantics with a journalist that close to a game time. It reaffirmed a harsh personal view of Walker as a classless bogan bully nowhere near concerned about his own performance over the past two seasons.
The ensuing three quarters were even worse, as Walker had no influence on the game, whilst his direct opponent was arguably it’s most influential over four quarters. To cap off a rough day for Walker, he managed to inadvertently contribute to an ankle injury to teammate Richard Douglas, giving him a minor shove out of the way of his leading path, resulting in Douglas rolling his ankle and taking no further part in the game, just as the Crows were starting to find an energy they hadn’t got near all game.
Popular opinion dictates that Rory Sloane was appointed co-captain rather than captain in his own right as a means of limiting the blow to Walker’s professional credentials and perhaps, ego too. It’s one I agree with, and yet wonder how the ramifications of that decision will play out throughout the year. It perhaps looms as an opportunity missed for Walker to focus on his own footy rather than power stances, taking jabs at departing players and belittling journalists.
Josh Jenkins – Could it be Jenkins that ends up the highest profile casualty of the 6-6-6 rule changes? A long-standing criticism of Jenkins’ game has been that a large portion of his goals come from ‘Joe The Goose’ type handball-receives in the goal square. Is that something that Jenkins is going to be able to find as easily without teams pressing as high up, and offensively, teams looking to go wider into the pockets with their delivery inside 50 to stretch defensive structures.
Jenkins took a shot from outside 50 on a slight angle at a crucial point in the last quarter, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a permanent forward look so uncomfortable taking a shot that far out. He didn’t make the distance, and his ability to provide a crucial chop out to Sam Jacobs when Ben McEvoy started to dominate around the ground was non-existent.
Tom Lynch – Didn’t see him until late in the last quarter. Stats say 20 touches. I say 0 goals, 0 behinds and the underrated David Mirra took him to the cleaners. Clear pattern here with Adelaide’s forward line structure. Can the three tall set up still exist in 2019? Does the loss of Mitch McGovern make all three that much more accountable? At this point, Adelaide supporters, how do you justify Lynch and Jenkins ahead of Darcy Fogarty?
Play Of The Day
It was a rough day for Crows fans but two pieces of play would have stood out in an otherwise very small highlights reel. Chayce Jones’ first goal in AFL was a ripper. A set shot on a difficult angle with seasoned veterans missing similar shots often, Jones composed himself and slotted it through with ease, much to the delight of his teammates. At the other end of the ground, former Victorian cricketer, Alex Keath would have been rapt with his efforts late in the second quarter. Found out of position, and with Jarryd Roughead five meters out from goal by himself, Keath ran back with the flight of the ball, managed to spoil without giving away the free kick, and then follow up to wrap Roughead up in a tackle, spill the ball loose, allowing his teammates to run the ball away. On a day where the Crows’ defence looked under siege once Tom Doedee went down with a season ending ACL injury, Keath showed a bit and arguably took the honours in his battle with the former Hawks skipper.
The Adelaide backline isn’t the quickest going around. The addition of Wayne Milera late last year was a promising one, he’s got pace to burn and doesn’t lack the confidence to run and carry, when he got his hands on it early on, Adelaide looked dangerous. After quarter time, Hawthorn successfully dragged Milera back to the last line of defence time and time again, and greatly reduced Adelaide’s drive out of half back, yet Don Pyke made no attempt to get him further up the ground and into the play.
It felt like watching Jonty Rhodes in his prime fielding at fine leg. At the other end of the ground, the Hawks made sure Jarman Impey got his hands on it as high up as possible, and was very damaging.
The professional free kick on Jack Gunston just prior to half time. Gunston had his opponent cold, and not another Adelaide player within 30 metres whilst streaming to goal, only for his opponent to give away a deliberate free kick, and allow his teammates to get back into defense. In soccer, it’s potentially a red card. In basketball, it’s a clear path foul (where the team receive 2 free throws AND possession of the ball). For a league throwing everything at curbing low scoring games, the professional foul should have an automatic 50m penalty attached to it, and it’s baffling why we don’t.
Where To Now?
The Crows travel to Sydney to face the Swans next Friday night, without Tom Doedee and possibly Richard Douglas. Who replaces Doedee will be a decent debate at the Crows’ selection table. Alex Keath was surprisingly preferred to Kyle Hartigan, and proceeded to have a great game on Roughead, but can the two (and Talia) play in the same side? Do you look to Andy Otten again? What about Darcy Fogarty? Cam Ellis-Yolmen probably the obvious inclusion for Richie Douglas if he isn’t able to come up.
Meanwhile, Hawthorn take on the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Sunday in a battle of two teams considered unlikely to be heading in 1W-0L. Will Chad Wingard play his first game as a Hawk? Can Daniel Howe force his way back into the line-up? Could be a difficult task to break into that Hawks line up that did very little wrong over four quarters.
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