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, Alex Docherty and Matt Oman went into watching this game as fans with eyes only for one team. The Doc was all about his Dogs whilst Matt wore the brown and gold of his beloved Hawks.
Below is the dual review from two Mongrels with very different perspectives on the game. It’s the Dogs and Hawks. Two Mongrels. Two points of view. One article. And one winner.
WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – Well you be hard pressed to find many who was close to the Bont as the best Bulldog on the ground. By half time, the Bont had 16 of his 28 disposals and had six clearances to his name. It was as if nobody in the brown and gold wanted to go within 10 feet of him. Someone on the radio was crying out, asking him to be checked for leprosy, because there was no accountability in that first half.
He was better checked by the Hawthorn midfielders after half time, but still drifted in and took some good grabs around the ground and finished with 11 clearances for the game – seven of those being centre clearances, as well as 17 contested possessions, six tackles, six score involvements, five intercepts and eight inside 50s.
The one man in red, white and blue you could make an argument for is Caleb Daniel. Another elite performance across half-back from beginning to end: 28 disposals, 21 of those being kicks, along with 11 marks, three rebound 50s, seven inside 50s and eight intercepts at 78 percent efficiency. That intercept from what was a poor Tim O’Brien pass in the Hawks’ defensive half was genuinely taking the piss at that stage.
HAWTHORN – Do we have time? There were so many Bulldogs all over the ground that dominated. Caleb Daniel out of the back half. Bontempelli, Smith, Macrae, Dunkley and Liberatore through the middle. Aaron Naughton forward. I know we have a young team now, but my goodness, the Bulldogs made us look second rate.
If I had to pick one match winner, I’d take Bontempelli. All over the ground he was simply magnificent, and his size and agility killed our midfielders. It is the one thing our team is missing. A big bodied, tough and skilful leader who will inspire his team with sheer brilliance. He is a superstar, and may finish his career as the best Bulldog in history.
WHERE WAS THE GAME WON?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – Well evidently, that first half was some pure champagne football.
That first quarter was something strange. Hawthorn were thumped around the contested ball, but still got enough footy to go forward with it, 10 inside 50s for the Hawks in return for 1.1 typifies just how bad the Hawks are travelling. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were able to run, create and spread off the turnover and make them pay with their forward 50 entries.
The second quarter was just a procession. The Dogs were +48 in disposals, +9 in contested ball, +8 in tackles, +15 in inside 50s and +7 in clearances and only let the Hawks score one point in the term, it was complete control. The only thing that let the Dogs down was the fact that they only kicked three goals for the quarter. Stats like that should be a six or seven goal term.
HAWTHORN – We lost this game because we weren’t good enough. Maybe that’s looking at it too simply, but from my vantage point, this team isn’t experienced enough yet to hang with the best sides. It isn’t even good enough to handle an up and down team like the Dogs. Taking nothing away from them, the Bulldogs were excellent today, but if you take away the first half of the third quarter when the Dogs took their foot off the gas, us Hawks were simply nowhere near the levels needed to be competitive. We turned the ball over far too often, didn’t mark when expected, couldn’t go inside 50 with any authority at all.
IF YOU WERE COACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – I don’t know how a coach goes about telling his players to play a consistent four-quarter game, but it’s what separates the Dogs from GENUINE contenders.
That second half, the Bulldogs just stopped running and opted to chip the ball around and not caring about taking the game on, just looking to be safe with their disposal – it was as if the game was already signed, sealed and delivered and were going through the motions. They did this against Geelong a few weeks ago and it came back to bite them on their backsides horribly.
What should’ve been a 10-goal plus win against a bottom four side, became an unconvincing six-goal win that was sprinkled with edgy moments throughout the game.
If I was the coach, I’d continue to urge the players to take the game on as opposed to this boring, haphazard strategy of chipping around the defensive half trying to find the perfect opening – just go out and run the corridor.
Also, I’m not sure about this thing they do where they have it deep in the forward pocket and start a chain of handballs that find them back outside attacking 50. I get that they are trying to retain possession, but it means sweet squat when they pump it inside 50 following that chain and turn it over, kicking it to the advantage of opposition defenders. I’d try and do something to fix that because that is irritating beyond belief.
HAWTHORN – STOP WASTING BEN MCEVOY IN DEFENCE!
I don’t understand it. He is clearly our best ruckman, so why are using the combination of Jon Ceglar and Tim O’Brien at the stoppages? Was it written into Ceglar’s contract that he’d be the main man, and that’s what convinced him to sign? Around the ground, English took Ceglar to the cleaners, and let’s not forget what other ruckmen have done to English over the journey.
WHO HAD THE MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – There’s a few I could pick out here. I genuinely think the way that Tom Liberatore goes about his football, digging in and winning football at the source, the way he dishes it out to team mates on the outer, the way he’s quick to read the play in close and intercept possessions – that’s underrated for mine, no one really talks about it. He had 28 disposals, 13 of those contested, he also had nine tackles, six intercepts, four inside 50s and three clearances in this one.
Taylor Duryea in his first game back in a long while did plenty of nice things across half back. He got his hands dirty, tackled strong. He’s an underrated player for mine – they looked a better unit defensively when he played last year.
Roarke Smith has continued to build some nice form in recent weeks – he stepped up in the third term with another important set shot, just as Hawthorn were starting build on a run. He is not going to be The Bont Mark II, but what I do like about him is that he runs and works hard around the ground to be in positions to get the footy and provide a link to the chain.
HAWTHORN – I just can’t go past James Cousins. Alastair Clarkson was very hesitant earlier this season to play any of our kids, and if we’re all being honest, he was almost forced into it by our supporter base as well as the media. But as Clarko has relented, Cousins has thrived since his inclusion. Eventually, this midfield will become his, and while he can’t do it all on his own, performances like he showed today proved that the next generation of this team is in good hands.
WHAT WAS THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – Those first few minutes involving Toby McLean both impacted the game itself and could impact the season in general.
Allow me to explain. First play of the game, the ball is worked out through Bontempelli and Jack Macrae into deep in the forward pocket. Mitch Wallis gathers and handballs to Toby McLean who strolls into an easy goal for the first of the match. That set the tone for what was going to be a big afternoon.
Then he injured his knee. It got caught underneath in tackle from that big lump that is Jonathan Ceglar. Not his fault obviously, these sort of things do happen from time to time, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for McLean personally. He has found himself in and out of that team this year and on the back of a superb job on Andrew Gaff last weekend, was looking set for another solid afternoon on the park.
The Dogs visibly looked flat the next few minutes but bounced back strong in the remainder of the first half. It’s the season done for sure, but whether or not it is the dreaded ACL remains to be seen – wishful thinking, but it’s not promising.
HAWTHORN – The “moment” that mattered the most was all Toby McLean. Kicking a goal 20 seconds into the game signified that the Dogs has come to play and sparked his teammates into life while also deflated my Hawks.
Then, just two minutes later, McLean was caught under a tackle, and his knee buckled under the weight. It seems that McLean is staring down the barrel of 12 months on the sidelines, and the thought of that galvanised the Dogs, who all went over to the stretcher to comfort McLean. After that incident, the Dogs played with a hunger and aggression that Hawthorn simply couldn’t handle. I can pinpoint these two moments in the first quarter that mattered the most.
WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – It is hard to find players in a winning side that were bad.
Mitch Wallis didn’t see a lot of the football up forward, kicked one goal in the second term, but didn’t do much else for the rest of it. Bailey Williams has had a greatly improved year, but on this day, was unusually quiet in defence, didn’t make a lot of noise with his 14 disposals. Ed Richards’ disposal efficiency was at an appalling 44 percent and Jack Macrae had a solid game, but he did go at 55 percent efficiency, which is a bit unlike him – he’s usually very sure with his disposals.
HAWTHORN – Paul Puopolo, thank you for your service. You have been a wonderful contributor over many years. But it’s time to hang them up now. If there was ever a moment that would indicate that Poppy is done, his slip over just before half time sums it up.
Tim O’Brien. I know you’re capable of taking this game by the scruff of the neck. But can you please bring at least some consistency into your game. Can anyone tell me a time when O’Brien took a really good mark, then disposed of the ball just as brilliantly? No? Well that’s because it never happens!!
WHO WAS THE PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST?
WESTERN BULLDOGS – In Hawthorn games I’ve written about and talked about this season, I’ve always referred back to Jack Gunston and how much he impacts himself as a forward. In a year where Hawthorn have had a hard time to generate a winning score, Gunston still bobs up for two or three goals per game. He came up with another three in this one. Could have had a fourth if the game went for another couple of seconds.
I have been on record in saying this, and I’m not afraid to say it again: Jack Gunston is too good for this team.
I like Liam Shiels, an honest soldier and tried his best in a midfield that was soundly beaten. James Cousins is looking like a likely lad as a young midfielder – between the two, they had nine clearances. Also that Damon Greaves kid goes alright – 16 disposals, four intercepts and six marks is a nice return for someone in his second game.
HAWTHORN – I just love what Aaron Naughton brings to the Bulldogs. Today he was matched up on Sam Frost, and boy did Naughton make Frosty look absolute B-grade. While he wasn’t the best player on the field, Naughton’s influence inside the Bulldogs forward line was immense, and one of the main reasons the Dogs were so far ahead at various points of the contest.
WESTERN BULLDOGS – A win is a win, but to tell you the truth, I’m not happy about this game. That second half has been problematic of the Bulldogs’ season: that being only turning up for a portion of the game, as opposed to playing consistent footy.
If we bring the same kind of intensity to Cairns next week against Fremantle – they’ll get chewed up and spat out by what has been a defensively stingy unit. Then it comes to Finals – doesn’t matter who they play against, the sideways chip-kick crap won’t cut the mustard against the finer sides and this handball-happy game style has been found out already by the better sides and they know how to clamp down on it.
So next week against the Dockers – all we have to do is win and we’re in. It is as simple as it gets and I prefer it like that. Because if we can’t win games we’re expected to, we don’t deserve to play Finals. It’s been a frustrating year to be a Bulldog supporter and games like these is pretty much exhibit A-Z.
Only if we get to Finals, I will try to figure out how this team can be considered a threat as opposed to also-rans, because that’s all I see in this mob this year.
HAWTHORN – This was a tough one. I found it a little difficult to review this game, since it was the first time since March 2019 that I could watch my team live. Sitting with a mate that happens to be a Dogs fan didn’t make it any easier. I didn’t expect to win today, but as I sat there at half time, being 40 points down and with only one goal on the board I thought to myself, it had to be better than this doesn’t it? We just look all at sea, and while the second half, in particular, the third term painted over some of the cracks, the reality is that we have finally fallen off the cliff.
The most likely scenario come draft night is that we will enter with pick 5 (once the Bulldogs match the bid for their academy kid, and the Crows gaining pick 2 as compensation for losing Brad Crouch and Rory Atkins), and we just need to take the best kid available. Maybe we also need to trade away some established stars to bring in some more low draft picks. All I know is that right now I’m a little embarrassed to be a Hawthorn supporter, and that isn’t something I’ve found myself thinking for a very long time. We need to play more of our kids, turn over the list significantly, and find some elite young talent that will take this team forward.
And stop playing Ben McEvoy in defence.
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