Parochialism is great, but only when there is an alternate view you can use to balance things out. There is no way both sets of supporters ever walk away from a game feeling completely satisfied. There is always a winner and a loser… or two teams that played to a draw and no one is happy.
In order to capture the feelings and thoughts of both teams, irrespective of the outcome, Trent Adam Shields and Jason Irvine went into watching this game as fans with eyes only for one team. Trent was all about his Hawks, whilst Jason wore the red and blue of the Mighty Demons.
Below is the dual review from two Mongrels with very different perspectives on the game. It’s the Hawks and Dees in what is ostensibly a season-shaper for both teams. Two Mongrels. Two points of view. One article. And one winner.
WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?
HAWKS – N/A
DEMONS – Christian Petracca is having some year and didn’t slow down today against the Hawks. Some may forget that he’s a fifth-year player and that he should’ve made good on his enormous potential now, but the 91-game player is morphing into a crafty and consistent mid/forward throughout 2020.
Petracca continually dazzled on the Giants Stadium stage and with an increased confidence, he’s expanding his repertoire, swiftly collecting loose balls, dodging and evading his opponents as well as crashing through many tackles. He had a heightened awareness of where his teammates were, or where his teammates wanted him to be and it resulted in finding space and opening up the game as he ended the day with 14 score involvements and three goal assists. He also kicked one goal himself among 29 disposals, over half of which were contested.
WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?
HAWKS – Hawthorn’s revered coach, Alastair Clarkson was at pains during the week to represent his team had endured the necessary soul searching required before a stark change of fortune. The opening moments certainly began brightly for the Hawks, exhibiting greater control of the ball through short kicks, and then attacking plays across the field to open up space resulted in a smart opening goal to Gunston after Scully hit him on the lead. That was to be the first and last time a Hawthorn player pinpointed a pass to a leading player for the entire half; an indictment not only on the 180 degree shift in Hawthorn’s skill levels but also suggesting players devoid of confidence.
A glaring weakness in the Hawthorn 2020 side is hardness. Previously a team, and club for that matter, renowned for their fearsome attack on the ball and player when the situation dictates is sadly lacking from this current incarnation. If it weren’t for those famous Brown & Gold stripes you might be concerned that this group has no identity at all. The post-mortem will bring forward numerous theories as to why this seemingly even match up became such a whitewash, but from this vantage point it was predicated on grit. Where Melbourne were ferocious, Hawthorn were timid. As a keen student of history (and pop culture) based on the past 50 years of results I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was later revealed a ‘freaky Friday’ styled body swap had occurred.
The first quarter saw Melbourne apply 13 tackles to Hawthorns eight. Moreso eight of those Melbourne tackles were laid inside their own forward 50. The Demons took advantage of Hawthorn’s slow and indecisive movements, three of these inside 50 tackles resulting in holding the ball decisions and shots on goal. And which Hawks were guilty of taking on the tackler rather than following team instructions to free up a loose teammate? Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne and Jaeger O’Meara – the captain, champion and talisman; not some first-year player finding his feet at AFL level.
The forward pressure became infectious and you could sense the Demons seeking out body contact as they sensed an apprehensive opponent. Ten bruising contested marks was testament to their attitude, and the Hawks inability to meet the same levels of intensity.
DEMONS – Melbourne’s cohesion and ability to link up with kicks and handballs leading to many of their goals coming via chains of possession. If all players involved could be credited with a goal, they should, but unfortunately only one name can be written in that column.
Despite scrambles in the centre square and their forward 50, Harley Bennell backed up his work, palming the ball forward in congestion and then collecting the ball up further down the ground as a string of Melbourne players were involved – including Petracca who sliced through tacklers – in a Mitch Hannan goal.
The Demons switched the play to great effect and the workrate up the wings through some big names such as May, Brayshaw, Fritsch and Petracca allowed Weideman to kick one from the goal square as well. Weideman was later involved when he claimed a free kick and again, it was a string of uncontested possessions that saw Melbourne with an easy avenue to goal that increased their winning margin.
Two back-to-back goals in the fourth term were a direct result of the Demons taking the advantage and finding forwards all by themselves and all would’ve been credited as team goals with many players contributing to the goal. The Demons’ forward pressure was also immense with 11 tackles inside 50, being rewarded on a couple of occasions as they made the most of their opportunities.
IF YOU WERE COACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
HAWKS – Clarkson made a promise during that week that the Hawks would be known by their actions. It turns out he may have forgotten to tell the players. Of course, the message might not be getting through, or more likely the 2020 version of this proud club are not capable of hitting the heights of their recent brethren.
At the start of the third quarter with the match well beyond a contest already, the Hawthorn players attempted to intimidate their opponents. The improved effort was credible but also exposed the horrific technique of almost every player in brown & gold when it comes to the basic skill of tackling.
Additionally, there was a concerted effort to not allow Melbourne behemoth Max Gawn an unimpeded run at marks from ill-directed Hawk kicks. Again, a sound theory but the three free kicks conceded to Gawn rendered the strategy useless. I’m not here to cast aspersions over someone widely acknowledged as a genius, but surely these two basic instructions could have been employed from the first siren. It’s not as though Gawn and his tenacious on ballers, Oliver, Viney, Harmes etc are unknown.
Secondly an imbalance has been ripped wide open in the defensive end – always a strength of the Hawthorn Football Club. Since the early 80s the success of this club has been built around dogged but highly skilled users of the ball in the back end who set up precision attacks. The likes of Josh Gibson and Grant Birchall with elite disposal efficiency statistics across their career have been replaced by Jack Frost, and a reliance on Stratton and James Frawley to direct the ball upfield. As a result Isaac Smith has been forced behind the ball, robbing the team of his forward dash, and leaving the uninspiring Tom Scully and Ricky Henderson as the “creators”.
A reshuffle is required immediately, and Will Day along with Jack Scrimshaw should be given the keys to the backline, with a few mentioned previously to be banished to the scratch match circuit.
DEMONS – There were plenty of things that went right for Melbourne and not many moments that would’ve seen Simon Goodwin scratching his head or punching a wall. He did slam the desk at one point out of frustration through the early stages of the third term when Hawthorn looked lively and the Demons defence were caught out.
Clayton Oliver’s kicking continues to look shaky and it was a hack kick out of a congested contest that allowed Hawthorn to run and hit Jack Gunston for the first goal of the day.
Realising that Christian Petracca is a bonafide midfielder is working wonders for Goodwin and the Demons are much better with him around that area. The team have become tighter in all areas of the ground and are willing to help each other out and look for one another, as evidenced by Max Gawn drifting back to take intercepts. Gawn had six contested marks for the game in a typically dominant display.
The Demons did get ahead of the ball at times and could have been hurt on turnovers by a better side. Equally, when the Hawks started slowing down the pace of their forward entries and not bombing it in, Melbourne were caught too deep and needed to adjust quickly to start playing in front to intercept.
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE
HAWKS – Finding a good Hawthorn player was difficult enough, let alone an underrated performer. Harry Morrison’s 13 disposals at 100% were encouraging if you hadn’t seen the same teasing outing time and again over the past four years (12 of the 13 were in the first and third quarters).
Tim Minchington in his first AFL match for 1,149 days improved after a towelling in the first half, Gunston was effective in a dysfunctional forward line which attracted only 33 inside 50s and finished with three quality goals and a spectacular mark over Steven May.
However, for the purpose of providing a little ray of light to the long-suffering Hawks fans, the quiet determination of Josh Morris in the number 35 is worth outlining. Debuting last week and in the kindest possible terms, looking miles off the pace, he began in the same vein today, even cruelling Hawthorn’s early momentum. But in an encouraging sign of his character he kept presenting. He was the beneficiary of a neat snap for his first AFL goal after Mitch Lewis competed well against three Demons in the goal square to spill the ball loose. This seemed to boost his confidence and he gathered half of his total possessions for the day along with a couple of tackles in the last quarter.
DEMONS – Oscar McDonald had a good game as he drifted around the backline and while he’s not a big possession-getter, McDonald does his bit to impact the contests. Today he had six intercept possessions and five one-percenters and he shows smarts with the ball, playing within his limitations to run at 91%. This is much improved on his past season averages which haven’t cracked 80%. A pivotal member of the Demons back six, McDonald frees up Jake Lever and Steven May to take on the bigger forwards.
Hopefully he can continue it for the entirety of the season.
THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?
HAWKS – Unfortunately, the moment that mattered most was bungled by young Josh Morris who gained a rap earlier for his persistence.
Midway through the first quarter with the Hawks well on top, he received a lovely footpass and accepted the ball unmarked just outside the square, the resultant goal would’ve steeled the Hawk resolve and perhaps jarred the Demons off course, however his simple shot missed badly and Melbourne were able to slam on three unanswered goals and gain the ascendency for the balance of the match.
DEMONS – Holding a 30-point lead at the main break, the Demons would’ve felt nervous when the Hawks had four of the first five scores of the second half. Luckily, only two of those resulted in majors.
Melbourne’s efficiency let them down in the third quarter and allowed the Hawks back into the game. However, from the 14th minute of the third term, a goal to Sam Weideman kick-started a four-goal blitz to the Dees, and continued as Christian Petracca slammed one home within the first minute of the final quarter. In that final 15 minutes of the third quarter, Melbourne won the tackles eight to two, inside 50s 10 to three and most importantly registered 4.1 to 0.1 on the scoreboard.
WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?
HAWKS – In a loss of such magnitude, and on the back of a fortnight of insipid performances there is nowhere to hide, and the first player that must face the music is the skipper. Surprisingly announced as the captain to succeed Jarryd Roughead, Stratton was an unassuming but highly effective negating defender in the great three-peat sides. Since his ascension he has been unable to maintain those lofty standards and despite a brief lift in output the previous fortnight was diabolical today. He was outmuscled, out-thought, and outrun by Bayley Fritsch and other Melbourne forwards. With his lack of foot pace and diminishing skills, unfortunately time is running out on his career.
Ben McEvoy has been played out of position almost all season by a coach seemingly intent on defeating Richmond’s frenetic “move the ball in high and fast” tactics, but has been found wanting against most other clubs’ strategies. He was finally returned to the role where he has made a name for himself over a decade only to be monstered by Gawn and rendered completely ineffective. 27 hit outs to just 12 tells part of the story, but 22 disposals and eight marks compared to a paltry six and two will make excruciating reading in the player review.
The 2018 Brownlow Medallist was struck down with an horrific injury before last pre-season and subsequently missed an entire year. Miraculously coming back to play round one this year, Tom Mitchell has been serviceable without being outstanding thus far, today however he lowered his colours in a stark comparison to his direct opponents, Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver who ran roughshod over him at the coalface. Only 12 disposals in the first three quarters and a solitary clearance for the match is not good enough for a player of his ilk.
Tom Scully is a shadow of the player he was at GWS. Today, he was a shadow of the player he was at Hawthorn last season. He is incapable of either laying a tackle or evading a tackle and his two way running has dried up to the point he’s not providing value at either end. 13 disposals at just 53% is an awful return for an experienced and highly paid player.
DEMONS – James Harmes is having a sub-par season compared to his previous two years at the Demons and this game was unfortunately one of his worse games. While he picked up 15 disposals, he was one of the Demons’ worst in efficiency, going at 60% for the afternoon. Pair that with five turnovers and giving away a game-high four free kicks made it a dismal game for Harmes.
Jay Lockhart, in his 18th game of top-level, footy looked shaky at times in defence and had six disposals with zero intercepts and a handful of pressure acts. He will need to continue to learn the basics and insert himself into the game more, especially against a team that will enter their forward 50 more times than Hawthorn did today.
Despite being a second-game player and kicking his first goal, Luke Jackson looked clumsy with five turnovers and two frees against but was okay around the ground.
PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?
HAWKS – Christian Petracca IS the most improved player in the AFL this season, in fact he may be the best player right now in the league. He delivered this message with an emphatic 14 score involvements today. The years of potential, an outstanding fitness base and his undoubted talent have finally aligned into a majestic package – he could very well win the Brownlow this year if the Demons continue to win games.
Possibly the biggest obstacle to Petracca wearing Charlie could be his three-time AA teammate, Max Gawn who was colossal once again. He treated dual-premiership star Ben McEvoy like a rookie on the way to pulling down six contested marks and just under ten hit outs to advantage.
These two were the clear standouts, but had entered the game in red-hot form. Instead I’d like to acknowledge the game of Clayton Oliver, who led his team with 505m gained, drove the ball inside fifty nine times, and brutalised his outclassed opponents with six tackles. A young player already with two best and fairest trophies in his cabinet, he has been maligned for over using the ball by hand, but today he used the foot brilliantly by foot, 16 times and was as integral to the victory as his two more celebrated teammates.
DEMONS – In his first season, and second game of top-level footy, Will Day was impressive. The defender was under the pump all day but made good decisions as he drifted towards the middle of ground at times to assist the under-fire Hawks midfield. Improving upon his 16 disposals last week with 19 today, his efficiency is top-notch and his pressure a noticeable asset of his game.
HAWKS – A promising start to the season that saw punishing victories over Brisbane and Richmond is presently spiralling out of control after three successive thrashings bringing the coach’s tenure into the conversation. The Hawks were never in this contest after the first ten minutes, looking well beaten at quarter time as they were being tackled out of the game.
A brief resurgence in the second half with a renewed effort and appetite for the contest was snuffed out again through basic skill errors, a lifetime from the standards that were the hallmark of the great Hawks teams of last decade. A serious injury to Tim O’Brien is further putting pressure on the Hawks brittle list with Jons Patton and Ceglar already on the injury list, and Mitch Lewis a shadow of the rising star of 2019 to date.
On a day devoid of highlights apart from the exceptional triumvirate of post goal songs blasted in the second quarter, ‘Rearviewmirrow’ into ‘Everlong’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’, James Sicily again stood tall, leading the game in metres gained and was creative early before the tide wall crashed down. He was ably supported by Jack Frost, a fine player in his first match against his old club. Youngster Will Day, with 19 assured touches already looks a permanent member of the team and has shown why the Hawks took him with their first pick in last year’s national draft.
A clash with Carlton in Perth won’t be the respite of the past few years, and there is a very real possibility the losing streak could continue for another month without a momentous turnaround. The likely return of dual-All Australian and best forward Luke Breust along with energetic Jarman Impey will be warmly received and should be at the expense of underperforming veterans rather than the precocious youth showing positive signs.
DEMONS – Winning just their second first quarter for the year was a good sign as the Demons were clinical in transitioning from one end of the ground to the other, often resulting in goals. The ability to continually attack the ball and move unimpeded up the ground through a series of linking handballs and kicks proved beneficial to the Demons, as this brand of footy caught Hawthorn out.
It became obvious quickly that the Demons wanted to move on quickly, whether from a mark or free kick, and they were always looking down the line and not wasting any opportunity to hold up and look around for options.
This Melbourne midfield may just finally be clicking after showing glimpses in previous seasons and unfortunately (for him), it looks like we’re already seeing the effect of what the Demons will look like post-Nathan Jones. Max Gawn was in control throughout his ruck duel with McEvoy, often punching the ball instead of tapping it, but moving it to advantage nonetheless – obviously a well-drilled set up. That was where the midfield of Jack Viney, Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw, plus the outside run of Ed Langdon came into play, with the Demons +13 in clearances thanks to these guys.
The Demons finally have run from excitement machines in Harley Bennell and Kysaiah Pickett, which allows them to springboard the ball forward with great pace and flare. The team looked to have a genuine belief that a quick forward entry will create a true scoring chance with these two skirting the contests. Sam Weideman found his groove and moved around the forward line with ease, just as Bailey Fritsch and Mitch Hannan have done in previous weeks. The test will come when Tom McDonald returns; hopefully this forward efficiency will continue.
The defence, against a better side, could get caught out a little. It occurred a few times this game as Melbourne unexpectedly turned the ball over in the middle, flew too early or weren’t accountable for specific players. Hawthorn were able to punish them and a change in pace from the Hawks saw the Melbourne defence needing to adapt quickly to ensure all were on the same page.
A stunning win by the Demons sees the fortune of both teams change. The Hawks fancied themselves as possibly flag contenders to start the season and now look as though making the finals will be surprising.
The Demons were written off by many, but with talent the likes of Patracca, Gawn, Oliver and Viney patrolling the midfield they should be able to cause a heap of issues for even the best teams.
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