Alternate Worlds – Adelaide v Hawthorn from two completely different views

 

Trent Adam Shields threw on his Hawthorn hat (it’s old and worn but he loves it!) and Tim Hunt wore the colours of the Crows to take a look at the Hawks and the Crows from the perspective of their team. Here’s what they saw.

 

WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?

 

TRENT – In a pulsating match where the ultimate Hawthorn match-winner was almost upstaged by a first game phenom, Jacob Koschitzke proved his 6-goal turn out in a pre-season match against the Kangaroos was anything but a flash in the pan.

Career highs in disposals, marks, goals, behinds, goal assists, contested marks, score involvements and contested possessions are not entirely unexpected in a player’s fifth match, but the confidence he exuded from the opening bounce was something to excite all Hawks fans.

Three first term goals, were followed up with a strong workrate across the match, and if not for some wayward last term kicking could have iced the game earlier and ended with seven or 8 goals himself. Matched against a solid Crows defensive unit containing Doedee, Butts and Kelly, Koschitzke positioned himself well all day, and worked in tandem with Mitch Lewis to terrorise Adelaide throughout the match.

Hawthorn fans shouldn’t expect this type of output every week, but the foundations for a forward line of the future are starting to take shape with Koschitzke’s seven marks inside fifty performance, coupled with Lewis’ 5-contested mark effort two games ago, and Emerson Jeka’s 16 goals in the past three VFL matches a very promising sign.

 

TIM – This is a tough one. For a game that ebbed and flowed as heavily as this one (Hawks jumped out to a 20 point lead, only to have the Crows fight back and take a 32 point lead, before the Hawks went again and took the win by three points), it feels almost impossible to single one player on one team out as the ‘match winner’.

Just how important was Jacob Koschitzke’s game? He kicks five goals (three in the first quarter and two in the third) in a game the Hawks won by three points, so surely his effort could be considered match-winning, right? Perhaps, but when it comes to match-winners, I tend to look at guys who do their best work when the team needs it most. This isn’t to disparage the effort of Koschitzke – I thought he was really promising, and along with Adelaide debutant Riley Thilthorpe looked the most dangerous forward on the ground. I just thought there was one player who lifted his game to a level I worried he may never reach again.

Jaegar O’Meara. With the Hawks staring down the barrel of a fifth straight loss (at their Tasmanian fortress, no less) O’Meara lifted his game above just about any he has produced for the Hawks so far. He was tough in the contest, winning eight contested possessions for the second half alone (16 for the day), and was the first Hawks midfielder to start to take control in the middle of the ground. Across the second half, he would gather 19 possessions, take five marks and kick an all-important goal, and I reckon if he can produce this type of effort on a consistent basis, he gives the Hawks hope that he can become the elite midfielder they so desperately need him to.

 

 

WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?

 

TRENT – Funnily enough I feel the seeds of this win for the Hawks were sown in their round 1 comeback against the Bombers when they somehow overturned a 39-point deficit to pull off a last gasp win. Since that match they have also staged compelling but ultimately unfruitful stirring comebacks against the Cats (down by 30 and lost by 5) and Fremantle (down by 35 and lost by 15 after getting within 9 in the last quarter), showing a desperation for the fight, a strong fitness base and importantly strong endeavour to compete until the final siren.

While the Crows second term was electric and they took complete control of the airwaves as number two draft pick Riley Thilthorpe momentarily was compared to John Coleman by an excited commentary team, across the full four quarters the Hawks were more consistent, winning more of the ball in both contested and uncontested metrics, entering their forward fifty ten more times and registering eight more times on the scoreboard.

One area in particular where the Hawks excelled, although not necessarily backed up by the statistics, was tackling. The Champion Data propellor heads will tell you that Adelaide out tackled the Hawks by 58-51 across the day, but the ferocity with which Hawthorn attacked the player to gain valuable turnovers was elite. Often more exalted for his spectacular marking attempts and scintillating snapped goals, Chad Wingard is building quite the CV as one of the league’s best and most consistent tacklers. 14 disposals was by far his lowest output of the season in terms of possessions, however six tackles that resulted in an incredible five holding the ball decisions his club’s way would have had the coaching panel smiling from ear to ear in the post-match review.

 

TIM – For a game where there were 31 goals kicked, it may seem silly to suggest that anything other than the forward line was where the game was won and lost. But that’s what I’m going to do. As I am writing from the perspective of the Crows, I’m going to say that the game was lost in the midfield. I’ve often thought this watching Adelaide games this year – they seem a midfielder or two short. I know, Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch are out injured, but injuries happen.

Today, the Crows midfield had some players that battled manfully and nearly did enough to drag the side over the line – Ben Keays and Rory Laird, I’m looking at you. I’m going to leave the wingmen – Lachie Scholl and Paul Seedsman – out of this, as I thought they both offered plenty of run and did what was expected of them.

As you look through the rest of their midfield group, however, you quickly realise how slim the pickings are. Jackson Hately, admittedly playing his first game for the club, played a majority of his game in the middle and I thought was unimpressive. He had 17 touches (three contested) and only had two clearances. Then you have Harry Schoenberg (11 touches, six contested and one clearance), Ned McHenry (eight touches, four contested and one clearance), and Lachlan Murphy (10 touches, seven contested and two clearances).

Added together, that’s one heck of a game, but spread it across four different players, and I think Adelaide’s problem becomes readily apparent. If you’re playing in the midfield, and particularly when you have dominant forwards like Taylor Walker, Thilthorpe and Elliot Himmelberg ready to mark just about anything that comes in, you have to be impacting the contest. Too often today, I thought these guys allowed themselves to become passengers.

Yes, these players are young and maybe I’m being a bit harsh. The Crows are also just in the early stages of their rebuild and will surely be looking at replenishing their stocks at the draft and trade periods this year. I just think that the young Adelaide mids got outworked by a group that wanted the win a little bit more.

 

 

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

 

TRENT – Very easy to highlight with the benefit of hindsight, but the Hawthorn key position structure after half time was a better fit. Koschitzke and Lewis up forward, alternating deep in the square and moving up to high half forward on the lead, with O’Brien back to aid Frost and Hartigan who both benefitted from the extra capably tall help.

While there were further moves cutting back on the space and time the Adelaide mids had to deliver forward, the net effect of Clarkson throwing TOB back was the tall three Crows (Walker/Thilthorpe/Himmelberg) decreased their production from eight goals in the first half to just two in the second. A flow-on also enabled Scrimshaw and Jiath to come in to their own and contribute in the air and to move the ball effectively out of the backline.

 

TIM – People are probably going to make a fair bit of the last play from Tom Doedee and whether he should have played on and handballed to Lachie Scholl, or whether Scholl should have applied a shepherd to allow Doedee a few more metres to get his kick away, or whether Doedee should have just bombed the ball back to attacking 50 as quickly as he could. These are all valid things to argue, and each could be equally right or wrong.

But football games are played over two hours, and there are so many decisions made within them that can have huge ramifications for the game, so to single out one at the end of the game feels cheap and uninteresting. Instead, I believe the decision that should have been made differently was the one to play Tom Lynch as the sub. Lynch didn’t look fit today, and after being activated as the sub, seemed to go through a fitness test so that the Adelaide medical staff were confident that he could get through.

Fitness tests are very common in football, with some occurring within an hour of the game starting. However, I can’t recall (and neither can you) any instance where a ‘fresh’ player was required to do a fitness test late in the third quarter to determine whether they were ok to play. Taking injured players into games is a policy fraught with danger at the best of times but taking an injured sub into the game must be one of the more bone-headed decisions made in the history of the game!

Eventually, and with the belated tick from the medical staff, Lynch was introduced to the game with about twenty minutes to go and gathered three disposals. When you consider that the sub could have played for about thirty-five minutes – more than enough time to impact the game – you have to be left with the impression that the Adelaide coaching staff may rue this decision.

 

 

MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE

 

TRENT – It’s no great surprise that the most underrated performance in this game was from a player underrated his entire career. Luke Breust was relatively unobtrusive to the casual observer, but that was merely because he just did what he’s done almost every week across 226 games after being elevated as a speculative rookie pick from a fertile NSW zone for the Hawks.

Fifteen disposals including seven contested, countless broken tackles a stealth art he has mastered, four bruising tackles of his own and an efficient three goals a pretty standard day out, albeit his best of this season thus far for a player rarely if ever spoken about in conversations about the greatest small forward of the AFL era.

A two-time All Australian and three-time premiership hero, Breust’s statistical output compares favourably to all of his main contemporaries in that role. Against Eddie Betts he averages more goals, more marks, more disposals and more tackles. More goals than Cyril Rioli, more tackles than Mark Le Cras, and more disposals and tackles than Stephen Milne.

I’d suggest you could set your watch to his output over the past ten seasons which have included three years with north of fifty goals kicked, and in 2018 almost achieving the Chief Mongrels’ Mt Everest of statistical achievements, the 50-goal, 100-tackle perfect season, but that would be a disservice to his spectacularly efficient finishing, such as his last term beauty where he collected a tumbling loose ball, brushed off two tacklers, wheeled inboard and snapped truly from 25m.

 

TIM – I really liked the look of Tim O’Brien in defence for the Hawks. It felt like there was an almost direct correlation between his movement into the backline and the Hawks starting to gain the ascendancy. It’s true that he only had eight touches in the second half (and just three marks), but when you consider the Crows kicked 14 goals in the first half, and only two after the long break, his importance in the Hawks defence begins to stand out.

Hawks supporters I know have often lamented O’Brien as being a ‘nearly’ footballer. He’ll deliver one or two performances every now and then that remind you why he’s remained on the list for close to ten seasons. Despite these performances, he’s never been able to nail down a permanent spot in the team.

Ever since Mark Harvey made the decision to play Chris Tarrant in defence at Fremantle, there has been quite a few forwards who have ‘re-invented’ themselves behind the ball – Liam Jones is the clear example. With an ability to also pinch-hit in the ruck, I wonder whether the O’Brien as a key defender may just be the solution to the problem that threatened to destroy their game today.

I know that I’m supposed to be focusing on Adelaide, so to give them their due, I’ll say that Tom Doedee continues to be a formidable leader. Now at 24 years of age, he is entering his prime but has missed so much footy due to injury that you feel he should be at least a year or two behind someone his age. Throw in that, at six-foot two he is often playing against forwards who are three or four inches taller, and the fact that he is rarely beaten and continues to put his head down and work hard is a testament to his inner strength and fortitude.

Adelaide’s ability to draft is something that should be marvelled, and often they have been pressured to take the home-grown talent over the out of state option. In a few cases they have bucked at this suggestion, taking Dangerfield over Ebert in 2007 and Doedee over Burton in 2015. In both cases, I think we can safely say that the Crows have taken the better player.

 

 

THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?

 

TRENT – After a quiet match last week where he lowered his colours to Kysaiah Pickett, Changkuoth Jiath didn’t wait long to pick up where he’d left off from earlier in the season. Running on to a handball from Blake Hardwick, CJ sidestepped a flailing Crows would-be-tackler before deftly dropping the ball into Koscitzke’s lap in between resting ruck Reilly O’Brien and an oncoming defender. For a player so new to the game, his game awareness and willingness to make good decisions stands him out as much as his incredible athleticism.

It would be remiss not to mention a little bit of redemption for Sam Frost who endured a horror game last week against his former club. Struggling again in the first half he seemed to regain his steely resolve when Tim O’Brien moved back, and took a match-saving contested mark over Tex Walker deep in the last term to save the match.

 

TIM – Amazingly, in a game where goals appeared so prevalent, only two were kicked in the final term. Each of these goals mattered so much, but I thought the moment that mattered the most for the Crows was the mark and point from Shane McAdam. I must admit, I have never been totally convinced by McAdam – he seems to me to be a less talented, less influential version of Liam Ryan. He had six touches and kicked two goals today, but also had four tackles indicating that his work-rate remained high throughout.

As he flew above the pack and took an admittedly outstanding mark, I thought that he had an incredible opportunity to kick a goal when his team needed it the most – 20 minutes into the final quarter, and as they were down by three points. Unfortunately for McAdam in particular, and the Crows in general, the kick was wide. I know that I could have written this about Keays’ miss too, but I think that when you are in the team to kick goals, and not doing too much else, McAdam’s miss was pivotal.

 

 

WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?

 

TRENT – Two of the more experienced Hawks were poor throughout the day, mostly with their disposal. Skipper Ben McEvoy has had a tough two weeks, roundly thrashed by Max Gawn last week, he again struggled against a very capable (and underrated) opponent, Reilly O’Brien down in Tassie. Soundly beaten in hit outs 40-24, O’Brien was also more prolific around the ground, outnumbering his Hawk counterpart 20 disposals to 13, but the main difference was when McEvoy took possession he gave it straight back, going at just 58% efficiency with a season-high four turnovers.

Liam Shiels was another who butchered the ball on the seventeen occasions he collected it, running at a paltry 53% efficiency well down on his season average of almost 70%. What makes his low percentage even more galling is that eleven of his 17 touches were by hand, that’s the lack of execution that breaks coaches’ hearts. A typical gritty display defensively with seven tackles prevented his game from being a complete wipeout, however.

 

TIM – I’ve named a few players above who I thought let the Crows down today, but instead of repeating myself I’ll instead write about another early draft pick – Darcy Fogarty. I really want to like this kid and am genuinely curious what Crows supporters have made of him so far. Every time I have seen him play he does a couple of things that make you sit up in your chair and think he could be the love child of Mark Ricciuto and Patrick Dangerfield (sorry for that mental image). And then he’ll touch the ball again forty minutes later and I’ll think ‘oh yeah, Fogarty’s playing’.

He had just nine touches today and needs to start impacting the game more. Part of it may be that the Crows need to decide what he is – a tall, powerful midfielder? A third tall forward option? Heck, is he a pure utility that you throw into whatever hole needs plugging? Whatever he is, the Crows and Fogarty need to make their minds up, and fast, because I sense that he is quickly running out of time.

 

 

PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?

 

TRENT – Ben Keays is becoming a star, if not one already. I’ve recently heard some discussion that the Lions were crazy to let him go, but in all honesty he wouldn’t have played ahead of Neale, Zorko or Lyons so for both clubs it’s a win-win. Not unlike the situation that saw Joey Kennedy move to Sydney despite the incredible family legacy as he was behind Mitchell, Lewis, Hodge, Sewell.

Thirty-one possessions, including seventeen contested and at the outstanding efficiency of 75% was just the start of his contribution. Game high tackles, 13, and clearances 10 (with six out of the centre) ensured his team easy passage forward in the first half when they piled on a ridiculous 14 goals straight.

A long goal in the second term could’ve been replicated in the last but the potential match winner sailed wide and out on the full in the dying minutes after a clumsy clearance from the Hawks, a slight blip on an outstanding match won’t be remembered when he is awarded three Brownlow votes for a performance that consolidates his All Australian credentials.

 

TIM – For most of the game today I was planning to write about Luke Bruest in this section. He has to be one of the best set shots at goal the game has ever seen and coupled with his innate goal sense, is one of the most dangerous medium forwards of the last twenty years. I am convinced that if he played for one of the big three Victorian clubs (Collingwood, Richmond and Essendon), he’d have, at a minimum, four All-Australian jackets by now. Instead he has two despite three seasons over 50 goals and six over 40.

Nevertheless, despite my clear love for Luke Bruest (and Luke, if you’re reading this, please note that I am not a crackpot), the player I most admired from the Hawks was Changkuoth Jiath. I know, it’s not exactly a piping hot take to say that the player affectionately known as ‘C.J.’ is going to be a star. But just because something is generally accepted, doesn’t mean that it can’t be written about in the venerable pages (does the internet have pages?) of The Mongrel Punt.

Footy has a great way of reminding you just how beautiful it can be. Observant readers will know that I am an Eagles fan, and after they got obliterated yesterday, I was about as depressed as I’ve been over footy in a long time. I wondered how I’d be able to write with any enthusiasm about the game today, how I could find any lightness in the sea of bleakness that envelops you after your team gets spanked.

Then Jiath happened.

Well, to say ‘he happened’ is to put it too mildly. Jiath has that rare ability to change the temperature of a game, taking one that’s meandering towards a predictable outcome and completely flip it on its head. The only player I have seen do this before is Chris Judd and I have a similar reaction every time Jiath gets the ball to when Judd did. It’s a catch in your breath that’s completely sub-conscious; your eyes that widen with anticipation as you wait to see what this phenomenal talent will do this time; your shoulders lift as the rest of your body tenses – “Jiath has run himself into trouble, will he be okay” – before the release of tension seeps in as Jiath inevitably steps around an opponent for the four-hundredth time.

He is an extraordinary talent, and that passage of play today where he burst through the middle of UTAS stadium and hit Mitchell Lewis on the chest leading out of full forward will live with me for the rest of my days. Thanks C.J., for lifting my weekend.

 

 

WRAP  UP

 

TRENT – A highly entertaining game played in glorious conditions at the league’s most picturesque ground with the best surface was not the expectation going into a game between likely also-rans for the 2021 season. Adelaide had started the year brightly, following on from three wins in their last month of home & away matches in 2020 and continue to unearth young stars in the making such as Lachlan Sholl, Harry Shoenberg and Riley Thilthorpe who matched past greats, Dermott Brereton and Stephen Lawrence with five goals on debut. Rory Laird and Ben Keays were two of the premier midfielders on the ground, and Adelaide’s forward efficiency in the first half was stunning with 13 goals straight from just twenty-five entries into the forward fifty.

However, the Hawks ran out victorious on the day, rewarded for their consistent endeavour and the aerial threat of two burgeoning key position pillars in the forward line. Jaegar O’Meara starred again, his ball winning abilities in the clinches and renewed capacity to break free from congestion hallmarks of his pre-injury status as a Judd clone. His disposal the only thing presently holding him back from becoming a top ten midfielder in the league or better.

While the Crows missed a chance to move back into the 8, the positives still far outweigh the negatives for coach Matthew Nicks who has the team pulling in the right direction. They host the undermanned Giants next week at home with another opportunity to develop their exciting batch of kids. Meanwhile the Hawks claimed their second heart-stopping victory for the year, one which would be best served by an early draft pick or two along with the continued development of their rapidly improving younger brigade. They face the sputtering Saints at Marvel in the Saturday twilight game.

 

TIM – The Crows would have to be disappointed, as they let slip an opportunity to stay move into the eight after six rounds – a feat no-one would have seen coming at the start of the season. And maybe that’s the point. The Crows have so exceeded our expectations so far that I don’t think their supporters could be mad at them for another few rounds. As long as they can keep playing with this level of heart and spirit, and as they get some soldiers back over the next month or so, this season looks far from the disaster many had predicted prior to the season – I’m looking at you Kane Cornes.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!