These days I like to think of myself as more of a general supporter of football, rather than a supporter of only the Hawthorn Football Club. I get just as much enjoyment out of watching the Gold Coast Suns overcome the odds, or Carlton Football Club break the drought for their first win of the season as I do from watching the Hawks knock over the Kangaroos.
It pains me to say it, but Joel Selwood is one of my favourite players – not just in the league currently, but of all time. It eats at me that we took Mitch Thorp the pick before Selwood was snapped up by Geelong.
But for all the holier than thou “I’m a well-balanced supporter who can see things through a neutral lens” kind of garbage, there is something primal about a Hawthorn v Geelong game that gets the competitive juices flowing. I don’t hate the Cats, as many Hawthorn supporters do – not at all. I just want to beat them so damn bad!
There is a respect I have for Geelong that I don’t have for other teams that may get under my skin. I love when Hawthorn beats Essendon. As a child of the eighties, the Hawks-Bombers games still have a lot of meaning for me, but it’s not quite the same. The recent history is not as rich, the feelings not as deep. There is something about clashes with Geelong that I can’t help but be drawn to.
Maybe it’s the comebacks, or 2008, or the nine-game winning streak, the curse, 1989, the Bruns incident, the 2013 Prelim, Dangerfield going forward and tearing the game to shreds, or Selwood… yes, Selwood refusing to allow his team to go quietly into the night, dragging his team back into contest after contest.
I love Hawthorn v Geelong with a passion.
I love Easter Monday.
I love writing about the rivalry, and here’s proof.
And today we have another chapter. Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of another clash between the old enemies. The Cats and the Hawks. Easter Monday, 2019.
THE HAWK KILLER
So I wrote the above paragraphs before the game today, and I’m not changing a thing. Why? Because in those paragraphs I wrote about Joel Selwood, and how he rises to the occasion against the Hawks.
He was best on ground again, today, racking up a team-high 32 touches in his most prolific output of the season. Of course it was against Hawthorn. Of course it was Easter Monday. It’s Joel F’n Selwood! What else would you expect?
He had eight clearances and five tackles, but he just did the things that only Joel Selwood does against the Hawks. Not only was he burrowing in to get the hard ball, but when his turn came to go, he was the one backing into the marking contest against the oncoming Ben McEvoy. He was the one that caused the spillage, and he was the one thwarting the Hawthorn forward foray.
This man is a warrior. He is everything you’d ever want in a captain, and damn it, he is probably my favourite player of the last ten years because no one… absolutely no one has been able to consistently do what Joel Selwood has done to my team.
Today i was looking forward to seeing him in his new role out on the wing, out of the hustle and bustle of the middle where he would be a safer bet for the young hawk midfield. Alas, it was not to be. Selwood on the wing lasted about as long as my good friend Joe Ganino when it comes to the fine art of pleasure.
Selwood was in the middle quickly, and wreaked havoc on the Hawthorn mids all day long.
I hate him, and love him at the same time.
THE LITTLE MASTER
There is a part of me that wondered just how Gaz would go as a forward in 2019. He was so used to being the number one man on a team, and last year the Cats had some teething problems with the big three of Dangerfield, Ablett and Selwood all in at centre bounces. Like Joe Ganino’s nigt time escapades, things just weren’t working out (yes, two Joe Ganino references in as many paragraphs… he’s famous!)
Well, with some tweaking, the Cats midfield is still incredibly strong, and it has allowed both Selwood to move to the wing (for the briefest of times today) and Ablett forward, and it was the latter that reaped some huge scoreboard rewards in this game.
Gaz snagged three goals (two directly assisted by Mongrel favourite, Luke Dahlhaus) and dragged down the biggest grab he has taken in years as the most potent forward on the park (yes, I know Rohan got four goals… I think Ablett was better, though).
He had 11 score involvements and provided a great lead up target to the wing on several occasions, working hard to create space between him and his opponent. His effectiveness in this role was highlighted by a game-high 626 metres gained for the game. They are elite midfield numbers for someone playing as a largely inside forward 50.
Gaz has plenty left in the tank, and the inevitable move to send him forward permanently could give him longevity in the game. He’s a pretty handy player to have roaming around the forward half, don’t ya think? A couple of years of Gaz doing what he did today… I’m sure the cats can find a spot for the old fella.
There’d be a couple of blokes hovering around the top of the leader board for the Peter Crimmins medal this season, and Henderson would have to be one of them.
He has been the most consistent of the hawthorn mids this season, topping 25 disposals for the fourth time today. His 33 disposals are a new career-high for him, as he goes from strength to strength in the Hawks midfield.
I don’t think I am going out on a limb by saying this, but he is the player the Hawks were hoping Isaac Smith would be. He had 10 score involvements, had 575 metres gained, and drove the Hawks inside 50 five times.
He is the epitome of being a late bloomer, and was an astute pick up by the Hawks.
I’ve whacked sic a couple of times this season, but he was huge for the Hawks today. I heard one of the wanky commentators suggest he should be moved forward at one stage, giving no thought at all to the fact that he was the one keeping the backline together. At that point, I turned the volume down.
Sicily had 25 touches at 84% efficiency, whilst gained over 500 metres for his team. What does that tell you? He isn’t the type to chip it around to bring that efficiency percentage up. He goes long, and he hits targets. That’s one of the triggers for our Power Rankings for defenders, so I’d expect to see him accrue some points there this week.
He also had double figure in intercept possessions as he floated around and chopped off multiple entries to Hawkins.
Great game for Sicily, this week, and for once he wasn’t the one doing something stupid behind play. We’ll get to Hawkins in a minute.
RHYS STANLEY V BIG BOY MCEVOY
This was a great ruck duel. McEvoy’s marking power and bulk, against Stanley’s mobility and aerobic capacity meant that we had a genuine clash of styles in the guts.
So, who won?
If we’re talking nuts and bolts, McEvoy’s 37 hit outs to 26 give him the edge, but when is being a ruckman just about getting taps?
Stanley had nine score involvements and four clearances, snagging two goals in the process, whilst Big Boy took three big contested marks to go along with two goals of his own. This was a real back and forth tussle, and Stanley seemed to really surprise McEvoy early before the Hawk bounced back into the contest.
On the whole, I’d give the slightest of edges to McEvoy. He was a bit of a disruptor in the air, and I am a big fan of good contested marks. That’s the domain of McEvoy this season, as he sits comfortably at third in the league, with 3.4 per game this season.
THE ASSIST MAN
Those of you who read our Power Rankings know that we’ve been keeping our eye on Luke Dahlhaus. Whilst Gaz gets the attention as the dangerous small forward, and as today demonstrated, that is more than justified, Dahlhaus has had one quiet game in the first five before bouncing back with another top-notch performance today.
He had 22 disposals, notched another five tackles, and… wait for it…four direct goal assist. When Dahlhaus gets the ball anywhere near goals, he makes good things happen. He finished with only one goal himself, but his value comes in many ways, and today it came in what he provided for others.
The Cats were looking at a two-fold replacement for Daniel Menzel, and while he warms a seat in the SCG grandstand, the Cats have Dahlhaus, who has more tackles in his first five games than Menzel laid in the entirety of 2018. Or 2017 for that matter. And they also have this other bloke who plays the best cameos in the game.
Gary Rohan, take a bow. Just when it seemed the hawks would take a lead into quarter time, Rohan entered the fray and snagged two goals in red time to send the Cats into the first break with all the momentum.
Rohan is the ultimate flash-in/flash-out player, making an impact on the scoreboard and then wandering off to amuse himself for the next 15 minutes or so. What is he doing in that time? Counting his toes? Wondering what it’d be like to be able to talk underwater? Who knows?
But when he jumps back into the game, he is ready to make an impact again. He is averaging a goal every 3.9 disposals this season… Chris Scott… get him the ball more and you’ll have the Coleman medallist on your hands!
This is probably going to be harsh for a bloke who had 20 touches and ran at 85% but you know what? I expect more from a star of the game, and I expect more from a leader of the club.
With Ben Stratton out, the Hawks needed leaders to stand up and draw a (trigger warning) line in the same when it was needed. What they got from Isaac Smith was anything but. Double grabs, fumbles, missed tackles, an inability to kick on his right foot… these are the sorts of things you accept from James Worpel or James Cousins in the midfield, but from a man purported to be in the running as club captain before the start of the year?
Not good enough.
I know he has a sore wrist, stemming from last week, but the ease in which Dangerfield shrugged his attempted tackle in the last quarter was the kind of action that causes teammates to drop their heads.
He had a few nice moments in the game, including a couple of consecutive short passes that hit the target when the Hawks needed him to (on his left foot) but I expect more from a leader of the club. Much more.
Look, I don’t care how much defensive pressure you put on, how fast you are, how many blocks you can lay, or even if you’ve got thirteen toes – when you get to three quarter time and there is a big fat goose egg in the disposals column next to your name, you’re having an absolute howler.
And that’s where we found Connor Nash this afternoon – lifting his work rate through the ceiling in the last quarter to finish with two touches for the game. Count with me now – one, two… you can’t even get a good intro to a song with those numbers!
Nash is an experiment, and the Hawks would have to be eyeing off the long term benefits of having him play at the moment, and I say that because the short term benefits are non-existent.
At the time, I thought tom Hawkins’ elbow to the exposed back of James Sicily was probably worth a week on the sidelines, just for the sheer stupidity of the act. Well behind the play and seemingly unprovoked, I thought Hawkins may have put his foot in it. Or his elbow as it turns out.
The Cats were pressing forward, and had a stoppage at 50, and who cares if Sicily is annoying as sand in the Vaseline? Don’t stoop to his level and whack the guy.
So upon further viewing, I reckon Hawkins gets a fine, and he should accept it, apologise to his team for jeopardising his spot with the West Coast Eagles coming to town next week.
I thought Dave Mirra had some forgettable moments last week in defence for the Hawks, and a couple of errors really cost the team. Seeing his name as an emergency, I breathed a little easier… and then Ben Stratton was ruled out.
People, this is like trading out a Ute with a lot of grunt for a Jeep Compass and expecting it to tow a big load. Ask me how I know about the Jeep Compass… go on.
Mirra was good early, but late in the game, when a cool head was required, he hacked away at the ball, and looked like he had no idea how to kick to his forwards. He bombed it long and high – had it been at Marvel Stadium, it may have hit the roof.
The Cats took it down the other end, and after a stoppage you had Selwood hacking a kick forward, Hawkins marking on the goal line, and a goal going the other way.
It’s probably unfair to have Mirra in this section, and I’ll cop that, but in context, I am looking more at the decrease in value for the team when you go from Stratton as your key back to Mirra. Do you think Gary Rohan is allowed to hit the ball at pace and do a complete U-turn with Stratton on his tale? I don’t.
The Hawks missed their captain today, and though having Mirra do an admirable job is nice, the drop off in quality is just too big to cover.
Plenty to get through here, and I’m already tired.
Luke Breust looked to be in second gear today. Hated, hated, hated him ducking his head in a marking contest, particularly as he almost marked it despite not even looking at the ball. Imagine what he could’ve done had he kept his eyes on it.
Many times the “bottom six” are what determines the outcome of a game. Are Geelong’s bottom six the top bottom six in the game…top to bottom? You know what I mean – have a look at them. Ratugolea is learning more every week. Jake Kolodjashnij is solid down back, mark O’Connor had ten intercepts, Gryan Miers and Tom Atkins bring the pressure, and Cam Guthrie… well, we like his sheets.
Seriously though, the Cats are putting in an all-of-team effort, and there is no one slacking off. They didn’t have a Connor Nash or James Cousins in the team today. Ouch…
What an absolute joy to see Mark Blicavs chasing Paul Puopolo out the back and forcing a stoppage in the second quarter. In a foot race, I’m not sure many would get back to pressure Puopolo like that, but Blicavs did, and was resolute all day.
Speaking of Puopolo, I am not one of those in the camp that believes he is a spent force. His pressure was excellent again today, and the Hawks would be well-served NOT kicking the ball on top of his head every damn chance they get.
Probably the quietest game of the season for Tom Stewart. It’s the first time since round one he hasn’t had double figures in rebound 50s.
Didn’t much like the defensive side to Chad Wingard’s game. One tackle inside 50, and a lot of pained expressions as the ball rebounded back into the hands of a Geelong defender.
I haven’t quite mentioned Tim Kelly yet, and to be honest, I kind of surprised myself when I re-read this and noticed. Another really solid outing from him, and his continued output has really allowed Chris Scott the freedom to work with this midfield rotation. 500+ metres gained with an efficiency rating of 72% is a good day at the office.
That unsung Cats back six was at it again today. We can talk up Stewart, and Harry Taylor, when not sneaking forward, needs no plaudits, but the contest killing from Mark O’Connor and Jack henry flies under the radar all the time.
Quick shout out to Mitch Duncan before I’m done, and not because of any of his 25 touches. What I liked was his willingness to lay a body on the chasing defender, allowing his teammates space to work. That is selfless stuff, particularly in today’s game where making space to receive seems to take precedence over protecting your mates. Some good, old school shepherding in this one from Duncan.
And that’ll do me. The Hawks get the resurgent Blues next week and the Cats get the blockbuster at Kardinia Park against the faltering Eagles. It’s going to be another ripping round of footy, and it begins in two days. Giddy up!
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