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. Jason was all about the Suns, whilst Trent wore the brown and gold of his mighty Hawks.
Below is the dual review from two Mongrels with very different perspectives on the game. It’s the Suns and the Hawks. Two Mongrels. Two points of view. One article. And one winner.
WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?
HAWTHORN – The Hawks have a storied history of sending off their favourite sons with a win in their final match, in recent memory the swansong of Jason Dunstall, John Barker, Luke Hodge (before he un-retired) and Jarryd Roughead have more resembled a testimonial celebration than an honest Home and Away contest, and so it proved again today with Ben Stratton and Paul Puopolo bidding farewell.
Hawthorn had winners all over the ground in what was their most complete performance of the season, but the player who set the tone from the opening minute and continued to be influential up until the siren was gun forward, Jack Gunston. Enjoying another fine season, Gunston slotted the opening goal after a strong tackle from Ceglar won the clearance and quick movement from Puopolo to Wingard saw him read the flight better for a mark directly in front. He grew from strength to strength throughout the match, and if this was an audition for the now vacant captaincy position, I don’t need to see any other candidates.
Finishing with 4.2, which moved him into equal second place on the Coleman Medal tally-board (and surely thrust him into pole position for a second All Australian jacket) from his 18 disposals and 11 marks, such was his dominance he probably should have had seven or eight. His value has always been in his ability to provide support in defence, or win the ball further afield to provide outlet options along with his obvious forward credentials, and the stat line of 431 metres gained, a game-high 12 score involvements and two direct goal assists reflect his enormous impact, and a likely club B&F.
GC SUNS – Who was the match-winner for the Suns? No one.
Who was the match-winner for the Hawks? Take your pick.
When Mitch Lewis kicked his first of the afternoon to take the margin to a game-high 54 points midway through the third term, it was probably the moment the game was iced. Gold Coast got the next two goals and had a string of mixed scores during the first half of the fourth term, but the result was already way beyond doubt.
Jack Gunston was the Hawk that stood out the most and in important moments to set up the dominance his side had on the contest. Two first-quarter goals helped the Hawks to their highest quarter time score since 2016. He again popped up with two crucial goals early in the third term as he continued to blaze away. When he wasn’t kicking goals, he was working up the ground, delivering the ball inside 50 and setting up a slew of Hawthorn goals. His 12 score involvements and two goal assists were the highest of any player on the field as he clunked 11 marks as well, with two contested.
WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?
HAWTHORN – Partially through a lack of capacity to compete and at least outwardly an unsuitable game plan the Hawks have struggled to move the ball effectively throughout the season. The pressure release of the final game, or perhaps the beautiful spring sunshine, so synonymous with most of Clarkson’s triumphant moments seemed to unlock the rigidity of a dour game plan, replaced with an accurate and committed style that created time and space to slice the opposition to shreds.
The likes of Jack Scrimshaw seemed energised by the loosened shackles to take the game on, and his six intercepts and 330 metres gained was the catalyst of many fast forward movements that utilised surprising winger Dylan Moore, Gunston, Liam Shiels and Harry Morrison in space. Moore displayed some of the running capacity and skill that saw him as a potential top 15 pick in his draft year as he amassed 25 disposals (previous career best 15) at 88%, 395m gained, seven score involvements and five inside 50s in an exciting vote-catching performance.
The quick ball movement was predicated on committed forward running and spread from the midfield which provided time and space for the Hawks to deliver accurately to one on one contests. The 15 marks inside forward 50 a massive improvement on the season average of 7.7, and greatly assisted by an extraordinary 82.4% (vs. season avg. 71.4%) disposal efficiency, more reminiscent of one of the three-peat team’s greatest strength.
GC SUNS – From the outset, and especially when you allow your opposition to kick nine of the first ten goals, you’ve got to ask questions about your defence. And that’s where the Suns lost the game today. But it wasn’t just defence in Hawthorn’s attacking zone, as the Suns allowed the Hawks to run rings around them up the middle of the ground, which is why they got so many great look-ins.
What the Suns were doing was getting a front position, which is great, however they weren’t reading the delivery of the ball and anticipating the drop. What it did was see them under the ball on many occasions, while the Hawks forwards would simply sit back a touch and mark or gather as the ball went over the back of the contest.
The Suns were too easily pushed away from the contests and lacked aggression in the first half, although they came out with a bit more intent in the third as multiple Suns flew for the spoils, something they were mistiming in the earlier parts of the game. Even in two on ones, favouring the Suns, they were losing out as a lack of communication was detrimental to the makeup of their backline.
The Suns also failed to hold tight until the end of each quarter as Hawthorn scored within seconds of the clock ticking down within the first three quarters. It wasn’t like they gave up per se, but just seemed to be unaware of the time and how easily Hawthorn can break the lines and get forward quickly.
IF YOU WERE COACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
HAWTHORN – Who am I to second-guess the best coach of the modern era, but here goes.
I was stunned that Finn Maginness was discarded after a promising but incomplete debut last week against the Dogs. I’ve already declared I am a football romantic, so perfectly happy to have returned Stratton and Puopolo for one last moment in the sun, along with any of the other triple or dual premiership teammates who wanted to see them off. However, that still left a litany of in-between players who have already had their futures decided that a talented player of the future could have had another opportunity to test himself at the level. It’s been a year where onlookers have been quick to cast aspersions on Clarkson’s decision making, it remains to be seen if this one will be just another for the list, or part of the glorious master plan.
While I’ve already touched on the change in game style above, the coach does, however, deserve credit for enabling the celebration of two great clubmen in their final outing. Puopolo has struggled for a couple of seasons now, but wound the clock back as he raced onto a loose ball in the forward pocket and expertly dribbled it through to give the Hawks their second, as he’d done 182 times before in his career. He followed this up with a well-judged contested mark and goal, and a bruising tackle to bring down youngster Noah Anderson and draw a free kick, if he’d managed an impossible pack screamer he’d have provided a perfect summary of his AFL life. As it was his final meaningful contribution as an AFL footballer was running on to a perfectly weighted pass from Gunston, a roles reversed ode to a moment of magic from the 2015 Grand Final and finished with aplomb registering three goals straight, eleven disposals and eight score involvements in probably his best game since 2016.
The other announced retiree was Hawks skipper, Ben Stratton who also turned back the dial with an assured defensive performance collecting a season-high 13 disposals and five marks while indulging in a perfectly executed sidestep to get his team out of trouble one last time. Of course, the lasting memory will be the fairytale move to the goal square in the dying moments and an unselfish handoff from Gunston again for Stratton to score just his second career goal, 11 seasons after his first. Much like Poppy, despite a less than successful past two years he will be long remembered as a brilliant defender and three-time premiership player.
GC SUNS – Stuart Dew could’ve told his defence to play for each other and help each other out a bit more but I’m not sure that would have helped much, as the Hawks demonstrated they could easily lose their opponents when leading. It caught the Suns off guard many times and a key reason why Hawthorn saw so many set shot opportunities.
Gold Coast could’ve played a spare down back – after all, they were gaining most of the centre clearances, so it would’ve been easy for a player to drop back down there in time, in case there was a turnover. The Suns seemed stagnant while letting the Hawks run riot up the middle, unable to counter the attack.
It sometimes appeared that the some Suns wanted to be the hero themselves, and didn’t look for options, especially tucked along the boundary inside their own 50m arc. There were a few occasions where Suns, mostly Alex Sexton tried to take it on himself with a snap on a very tight angle when alternatively, could’ve handballed back or gone inboard.
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE
HAWTHORN – Dylan Moore was probably the most surprising, but he was prominent throughout and likely to attract the umpire’s attention, so I’ll nominate fellow midfielder James Cousins. Having struggled to gain a foothold in a midfield featuring high profile teammates Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel, Cousins has bided his time at Box Hill and in the scratch matches this year awaiting an opportunity. Injury to O’Meara paved the way for his inclusion and in the final seven games has acquitted himself well, collecting at least 16 touches each outing.
With confidence growing, and a previously unrecognised turn of pace, Cousins has quietly gone about his business of breaking into the centre square rotation, and today delivered seasons high’s in disposals (25), marks (7), score involvements (7) and inside 50s (8) and running at the more than respectable 84% disposal efficiency. While he probably lacks a distinguishing skillset to set him apart from the incumbents (apart from perhaps the ability to hit a target), his last month will see him firmly in the plans moving forward for 2021.
GC SUNS – Wil Powell is a name that may not pop up when you think of Gold Coast’s defenders, but he got the job done today… as much as he could under such pressure, and is enjoying a fine third year at the Suns.
Fighting a losing battle against the Hawthorn forward fifty entries, Powell still managed 17 touches. He collected the ball and immediately looked to give it off to a free player as the Suns tried and make quick transitions from defence. He hunts the footy and never gives up as his ten contested possessions (a season-high) shows and is efficient as well, today going at 82%.
Continuing on his exceptional ball use, Powell turned the ball over just the once, while intercepting a Hawthorn kick 13 times, He performed the same number of pressure acts too. There’s not much you can do when the Hawthorn forwards are so on song, but Powell held his own amongst them, and must be credited.
In what may be his final game, Jarrod Harbrow was impressive also. He only notched up 10 disposals but his workrate was on show a couple of times. There was a moment in the final quarter where Harbrow intercepted the ball on the half back flank, kicking it forward to a teammate as the Suns moved the ball up the field. Harbrow kept running and eventually found the ball again when Ben King handballed to him running past. Instead of opting to launch from 50 metres out, he spotted Alex Sexton on his own, setting up Sexton who was leading into an open goal square.
THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?
HAWTHORN – No doubt the lasting memory of this match will be the retiring skipper, arms aloft and mobbed by exuberant teammates as he registered a rare goal in his curtain call, or even one of Poppy’s three trademark goals, however with a view on the future I’m going to make a big call on the future forward structure of the Hawks.
While neither Tim O’Brien, nor Mitch Lewis will walk into their exit interviews with an expectation to seek a pay rise, both have shown teasing glimpses over the past month that they can feature in the long climb back up the ladder. You might be able to read between the lines that this doesn’t necessarily make good reading for Jon Patton fans, sure he might turn it around, but I don’t think his body will allow him to make a meaningful contribution at AFL level anymore, unless he can be re-invented as a ruckman. But onto the twin towers who undoubtedly lead the league in all statistical measures relating to potential. O’Brien is 26 and has played 78 matches, 16 this season, and only collected over ten disposals on four occasions, and four or more marks six times. There’s something about Timmy though that keeps us all coming back, I personally suspect it’s his formidable durability, plus the fact he keeps getting to good positions and on the somewhat rare occasion he has the ball, has above average skills. I think as Hawks fans we’ve been spoiled by Brereton, Hendrie, Roughead, Holland in the key forward position, O’Brien is never likely to reach their lofty heights, but if he can start to contribute a little more consistently with two goals, two contested marks, two tackles inside 50 then you can start to build a plan around that.
His much junior partner in crime has suffered a confidence sapping year, firstly a late start due to a shoulder reconstruction then a serious ankle injury and then being thrust into a losing team devoid of imagination. His return today of 12 disposals, five marks, two goals (all season high), on the back of improved competitiveness the last few games reminded fans of his purple patch late last season which won him a Rising Star nomination. At only 21 years of age, and hopefully with an uninterrupted pre-season ahead Lewis has the talent to potentially more closely resemble some of those great Hawthorn names as a key forward.
GC SUNS – The moment that mattered the most was Alastair Clarkson allowing Ben Stratton to play out of the goal square in the fourth quarter, in his final game for the Hawks. The Hawthorn captain ended the current longest draught between goals when Jack Gunston chipped it to him and he converted.
Paul Puopolo was involved in the build-up, shrugging off some defensive pressure to kick it to Gunston, who could have kicked another goal, himself, but he was always looking for Stratton, and found him. The Suns, who surely knew something like that would happen, didn’t run with the Hawk who marked uncontested.
After Stratton kicked the goal, his teammates rallied around him and celebrated, which was a sight to make anyone smile.
For the Suns, a moment of positivity came from Jy Farrar who kicked his first goal with his first kick. In his debut game, Farrah fumbled the ball but managed to kept it in front of him in the forward pocket. The ball was close to going over the line but Farrar was able to keep it in, pulled it back towards himself, then danced around one or two opponents and kicked a nice snap goal. It was the Suns’ first goal of the game, and one that broke a five-goal streak for the Hawks.
WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?
HAWTHORN – While the stakes were incredibly low in this one, it produced a rarity in which every Hawthorn player would be happy with their output on the day. Bursting out of the blocks with seven goals, the Hawks were never threatened and ran away 51-point winners. The cynical fan could point at some of the more senior players and ask where that effort and application was earlier in the year when this type of form could’ve made a run for the finals we were all led to believe was the Hawks 2020 destiny. Conversely, you could take a counter view and admonish those in brown & gold for giving up the coveted third pick in the upcoming draft, quite likely handing Sydney a free shot at their academy selection Campbell with their second pick in the process.
GC SUNS – Josh Corbett was mostly unsighted and only had two disposals in the second half, at a time when the Suns looked more dangerous forward. He didn’t use the ball well, tracking at 33% and turned it over three times. Corbett did deliver the ball inside 50 when playing up the ground, working up to the wing, but failed to deliver meaningfully on the scoreboard.
Jarrod Witts is usually so dominant around the ground but failed to impact the contests like we’ve come to expect. He was edged out around the ground by the likes on Ben McEvoy, Jonathon Ceglar and Tim O’Brien. Witts had two disposals, his lowest career tally and had one mark though was up on tackles (four) and led the game for hitouts with 28, even if he looked shaky at the beginning.
Jack Lukosius let the side down at time. A brain fade when he played on whilst out of bounds summed up his game. Izak Rankine didn’t have the electric impact he’s been lauded for this season while Charlie Ballard was also unseen in defence, gathering just four touches with his hands full trying to stop Gunston.
PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?
HAWTHORN – The Suns have come a long way in 2020, finally after a decade appearing to be on track to make a sustained climb up the ladder. Rowell, Lukosius, Rankine sublime at times, while Ellis, Witts and Greenwood have enhanced their reputations as mature-aged players.
In this match two Suns stood out, one from each of the new and experienced lists, David Swallow the dogged and hardworking co-skipper posted 27 touches with seventeen contested, five centre clearances amongst 11 for the game and 370m gained in another determined performance that is showing the talented list below him what it takes to succeed.
Getting down and dirty beside his captain was Noah Anderson the number 2 selection from last year, but who receives little of the fanfare of the three other extreme talents listed above. The one that got away for the Hawks from a Father/Son perspective continued his exceptional freshman year with 25 disposals (second best for the year), four clearances, six score involvements and 460m gained, displaying his superb inside and outside credentials. While Docker Caleb Serong is favourite to win the Ron Evans medal, it would not surprise at all if Anderson was crowned the best young player of 2020.
GC SUNS – It’s hard to go past a guy like Jack Gunston in this game. He is a player who entirely embodies the Hawthorn Football Club, whether that be assisting with getting the scoreboard ticking along, or setting up teammates. It was pleasing to see him make an impact with four goals, and the way he sees the ball a nice component of his game and of a forward in general.
However, someone who played a really great game was Dylan Moore. Bursting out of the blocks from the very first bounce, Moore had already amassed 16 disposals in the first half, eclipsing his season disposal tally from the past two games.
He finished with 25 disposals for the match and it was surprising that he’s only playing his tenth game in the big league, as he looked just as good as the rest of his seasoned teammates. Moore got on the end of a goal in the first quarter but also showed he was capable of clunking the ball and using his speed to gain the Hawks some meterage along the wing as they pressed forward. Spending almost an equal amount of time in defence as he did forward, Moore set up a lot of his team’s scores and found his teammates with exceptional ball use, going at 88% for the match.
HAWTHORN – After a season where not too much has gone right, it was a nice way to say farewell to a football year best forgotten.
The Hawks have been a disappointment this season. After looking as though they could do some damage on paper, the output on-field has left plenty to be desired. However, if we’re looking for silver linings, there are plenty to be found here.
Gunston and Breust played the kind of roles we’ve come to expect from them, we saw off two premiership heroes in the manner they deserved, and though it cost us a position in the drafy, it was kind of worth it.
This year hasn’t been fun as a Hawks supporter, but you look for the little things, and in the development of Moore and Cousins, the emergence of Will Day and with Jack Scrimshaw looking more and more accomplished, things may not be as bad as people believe going forward.
Plus, there is a lot to be said for maintaining a winning culture.
GC SUNS – After a positive start to the season for the Suns, it’s disappointing to see them fall down the ladder to this extent. Things looked promising when they unearthed Matt Rowell, gave us the long-awaited Izak Rankine debut and we saw what Jack Lukosius could do off half-back. There was also that win against West Coast in Round Two that may rank up there with the young club’s best. Throw in a 3-1 record after Round Four, and Gold Coast looked poised to take the next step in the club’s journey.
Losing some key players in recent years is going to take some time to recover from but there’s still some belief around the Suns and with this crop of kids, the sky could be the limit.
Credit to the Suns, they knuckled down after half time, with a couple of consecutive goals but it was the Hawks who had the last laugh on this day – they continually managed to hit the scoreboard late in quarters.