Going into this game, you had to have the feeling that with the form the Swans were in, it was the sort of game they should win.
They sat sixth on the AFL Ladder, whilst the Hawks languished in 17th place with their worst start to a season since waaaaay back in 2004. It was the type of game that good teams smell blood early and put the result beyond doubt, and I will happily admit – I bit – I thought the Swans were a good side this season.
However, as footy tends to make a habit of doing, it threw another wrinkle into the mix, with the Hawks gaining the ascendancy and cruising to a comfortable 38-point win.
There are a lot of questions coming out of the game, so let’s jump into them.
SHOULD THE HAWKS ENTERTAIN OFFERS TO TRADE TOM MITCHELL OUT?
Okay… I am on a bit of a rant to start things.
Hell no, they should not be entertaining the option of trading Mitchell. I’ll tell you why.
1 – His value to Hawthorn far exceeds anything you’ll get back.
If Mitchell is put up for trade, you know full well what you’re gonna get, right? Low-ball offers from clubs who are already contending and the possibility of picking up one of their outcasts as well as a late first-round draft pick.
That’s about all they have to offer. What you end up with is the best of the poor offers, assuming Mitchell wants to go there, and you’re effectively getting pennies on the dollar of the true worth of this bloke. The way he finds the right spots, sets up teammates and tackles… you’re not going to get anything near the quality back from trading him and if you’re happy with moving him on, I fear you’re happy settling for others teams’ scraps.
2 – His standards will drive the new batch of kids coming through
So, the Hawks look as though they will have a pretty decent draft hand again this season. With Isaac Smith gone, Tom Scully gone – the guys who used to really pile on the pressure on the track to be the best and fittest, who sets the standards at the club without Mitchell? Who goes out there and works himself into the ground the way Mitchell does? Who inspires these kids when they look around the change rooms and see a Brownlow Medallist a couple of seats away from them?
He is the measuring stick on this team. You want to be a champion? You have to work as hard as Tom Mitchell does. You want to reach the pinnacle of the league – watch and learn from the best.
Some people may state that Mitchell won’t be there when the Hawks contend again – that may very well be true, but the lessons he imparts to the kids who will headline the next generation of Hawthorn could be as important as anything you get via a trade. If Mitchell can teach some of these kids whilst still playing at an incredibly high level, then he is an asset to the club in more ways than just picking up 30+ touches every week.
3 – You do not treat club legends like that
This is damn disrespectful.
This club is Hawthorn. This is Tom Mitchell. We are not talking about Melbourne in 2001 and the way they offloaded Shane Woewodin. To even think of that scenario in comparison makes me baulk at the suggestion of moving Mitchell on in any way, shape or form.
You just do not do that to players of his calibre whilst they still have a lot of gas in the tank.
If Hawthorn fans are sitting around, rubbing their grubby little hands together wondering what they can get for Mitchell while he still has value, they have no idea about the concept of culture within a team. Loyalty and respect go both ways – you don’t just ask players to sign up, sign on and stick with the club when it suits you. Yes, this is a business, but Hawthorn proudly trots out the ‘Family Club’ motto where and when it suits them.
If you are happy to pull the trigger on a favourite son on a draft pick that may or may not play 100 games (not 200 good ones – that is no guarantee) then the culture at the club you’re representing is one of a mercenary.
The family club of mercenaries… is that what you want?
Do not trade Tom Mitchell and use the excuse that he won’t be there when you next win a flag. If that was the case for offloading people, I can count a dozen other players Hawthorn may as well jettison as well.
You need to grow a culture, and to do so, you need those who can teach it. Mitchell can be the heartbeat of this team as it builds new leaders.
Or you can offload him to a strong team and get bugger all back.
CAN YOU WIN A RISING STAR NOMINATION BASED SOLELY ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE OF THE GAME?
Pencil him for it right now.
Too often, those who decide these kinds of awards and eligibility get distracted by the offensive numbers a player produces. I would absolutely hate to see the nomination go to someone who rolls out this weekend and has 15 touches and kicks two goals.
What Jai “Duke” Newcombe did in this game deserves plenty of recognition.
At 19, and in his first game at the level, he applied 14 tackles to lead the game and set an example for his teammates to follow. He was hard at it, and when confronted with contact, like Joe Ganino in a communal spa, he did not shy away from it at all.
I have a bit of a soft spot for the physical players in the game. More and more it seems that the players who enjoy tackling because they are damn-well good at it end up with the short end of the stick from umpires. Even in AFLW, the most prolific tackler they’ve ever had found herself facing the tribunal on two occasions in 2021 because she was simply stronger and more relentless than others.
It’s an aspect I see being weeded out of the game, so to see a young man come in, knuckle down and make a name for himself on the back of hard defensive work is so bloody refreshing.
If there is a kid who comes out and kicks a couple of goals this week, good luck to him. If he gets the nod for the Rising Star over Newcombe, so be it, but when you’re looking for a performance on debut that makes a real difference to the overall team, and a game built on the hard stuff that makes a team better, the game of Newcombe will be hard to beat this week.
Well done, young man.
DOES JON CEGLAR HOLD HIS PLACE IN THE TEAM NOW?
It’s going to be pretty hard to displace him, isn’t it?
Ceglar played like a man with a point to prove. He was aggressive at stoppages, took a couple of contested grabs and hit the scoreboard. His tandem act with McEvoy worked as well as I have seen that pairing co-exist, with intelligent switches able to free up whichever big man wasn’t playing ruck, and create mismatches inside 50.
Ceglar led the game with 11 clearances – an area that Tom Hickey usually excels in. Both Hawthorn big guys were able to keep their body on Hickey to prevent him from taking clean take aways, but Ceglar was able to go one better and clear the ball himself. In effect, he beat Hickey at his own game, and in the process, laid down the blueprint for other rucks to follow.
He has to stay in the side after this performance – you do not flirt with that sort of form.
SHOULD JAMES ROWBOTTOM BE DEPLOYED AS A DEFENSIVE MID EVERY GAME?
He probably should, because as much as I like him, he is a bit of a messy player with the ball in-hand.
He had double-figure tackles in this game, but looks a little tentative when asked to deliver the footy to a target. I see him as a definite role-player on this Swans team in the long term, and love the mongrel he displays, but I much prefer him to be the guy getting down and dirty, then dishing off to a teammate to make the downfield kick.
He was moved onto Tom Mitchell to commence the third quarter, after Mitchell had his way with his former team up until half time. After notching 21 touches in the first half, Mitchell was restricted to just 13 in the second as Rowbottom tightened up on him around stoppages and the Swans, for a while at least, started to break even in contested footy.
There is a genuine role to play most weeks for a good defensive midfielder – I am a big fan of them in every team, and at just 20, Rowbottom has the capacity to grow into such a role, but he has to embrace it now and work on his craft to cement it as his place. He’s done it before, he did it in this game and he can do it again.
The other option for the role would be George Hewett, but given his contract status and current role, perhaps his future lies elsewhere.
WAS THAT BIG BOY’S BEST GAME AS HAWKS SKIPPER?
It felt like it.
He was a huge presence in marking contests, pulling down five contested grabs for the game, and his second efforts were first-rate as well.
McEvoy was a strange selection as skipper of the Hawks. At 31, I kind of viewed him as an interim captain until one of the younger bunch emerged, and I was a little surprised that Jaeger O’Meara wasn’t considered worthy of the captaincy.
In this game, however, the big fella demonstrated just why he is so highly regarded within the Hawthorn Footy Club. He tagged brilliantly with Jon Ceglar in the manner I am sure l Clarkson was hoping they would have last season. Whilst he is never going to put his hand up to compete in the halftime sprint at the Grand Final, McEvoy’s presence in this game delivered copious amounts of leadership.
He was the get out of jail kick down the line as well as a threat across half forward, and with Tom Hickey stretched between covering both him and Ceglar, McEvoy made the most of mismatches all game long.
AND WAS THAT ISAAC HEENEY’S WORST GAME OF THE SEASON?
He just could not get near it. Even when the Swans were up and about in patches, Heeney found himself handed around like… well, I won’t go there, between the Hawthorn backmen.
Matched up for the majority of the time on Blake Hardwick (great porn name – he also spent time on Papley, so a real double whammy from him in defence), Heeney was unable to find the space to operate, and could not get the delivery he wanted inside 50 at all. He usually finds a way to contribute, whether it is with his aerial skills or his quick recovery, but the lack of precise delivery meant that he constantly found himself out of position, with Jack Scrimshaw, Changkuoth Jiath and Will Day consistently covering the space in front of both he and Buddy Franklin.
With the Hawks cutting off the leading lanes, it also had an adverse effect on Tom Papley, whose frustration boiled over on multiple occasions.
Both Heeney and Papley worked hard to get up the ground and become involved in the game. Heeney was deployed to half back to offer some stability, but looked a little tentative at times. Papley made a terrific chase on Jiath to win a free kick, but his highlights were few and far between.
Overall, it was a very lean day for the Swans forwards as a whole, but the ineffectiveness of Heeney and Papley were quite pronounced, and all credit must go to Hardwick, Jarman Impey and the rest of the Hawthorn back six for a fantastic blanket job.
WHAT WAS UP WITH THE FREE KICK COUNT?
It ended at the lopsided count of 26-10 in favour of Hawthorn and even some Hawks fans would have to admit they got a pretty good run of the green in this game.
It’s not so much that the ones that were paid weren’t there – not at all. It was more the ones that were let go when the shoe was on the other foot. You could argue that the Hawks were just harder at the contest and put their head over it more – that would not be too far from the truth, but to average 2.6 free kicks to every one your opponent is awarded makes for a pretty frustrating day at the office for both the players and fans.
Amazingly, the free kick that was not awarded to Will Day as he took on the Papley tackle in the middle of the ground, and set Tom Papley right off in the process, was the right call. Day handballed the footy right before Papley laid the tackle. He was completely within his rights to do so, and Papley got up and went right off about it.
He was so pissed and his blast so directed, that the umpire actually stopped play and awarded a free kick for abuse against Papley.
I like Paps, but there was a fair bit of Dayne Zorko in his behaviour at that point. And I don’t like the way Dayne Zorko conducts himself at all.
Were the Swans robbed on the free kicks?
Yeah… a little. But I’d be more inclined to blame the fumbles and disgusting kicks inside 50 than the free kick count for the loss.
WILL JAEGER O’MEARA’S HIT ON WILL HAYWARD BE LOOKED AT?
Nope, it was a definite football play, with the ball in dispute and the contact incidental.
So, that means it should land O’Meara about an eight week suspension…
Seriously, to me, that looked like a genuine contest for the footy. Both guys arrived at the same time, there was contact and Hayward came off worse for wear. He won’t miss a game due to the bye, assuming everything goes well, and should be back for Round 15.
WHAT WERE THE SWANS LACKING THE MOST IN THIS ONE?
I have not seen a Sydney team look in such disarray this season as I did in this game. Uncontested marks inside 50, fumbles and poor options time, and time again… the Swans looked tentative, and were constantly handballing to the feet of their teammates, or missing them completely.
Every time there was an error, the issues were compounded, and with a prime mover like Callum Mills getting 22 uncontested touches and still only travelling at 70% disposal efficiency, you know you’ve got a problem on your hands.
The Swans really seemed to lack genuine leg speed, with Justin McInerney trying hard, but he had few mates to help.
Ollie Florent had a middling game, and despite enormous potential, he is still having too many games where he sits around 15 touches and does not have an impact. I have heard some compare him to Andrew Gaff, but in year five, Gaff was right at 29 touches per game. Do you know how many games he had under 20 touches in that season?
Florent is sitting on six this season. Elite wingmen just do not go missing like that.
I hate to say it, as it’s putting a lot of pressure on the young man, but the Swans really missed Chad Warner in this one. I mean REALLY missed him. He has a penchant for doing the little things that make others better, and whilst Gulden and Campbell attracted the attention early in the year, Warner’s consistency has been vital to Sydney’s success. They need his run, and while they’re at it, I hope they get their other kids back to mount a string run at finals.
DID THE SWANS JUST SHOOT THEMSELF IN THE FOOT?
This club had a golden opportunity to go into the second half of the season with a very healthy record, and instead will now sit back and watch proceedings next week, wondering how close the finals race is going to end up.
They left the door ajar for teams such as Essendon and GWS to start thinking they can sneak in, and they could very well slip a spot depending on how the Richmond v West Coast game plays out.
They play Port Adelaide in South Australia the week after the bye, and will be desperate to pick up a road win to atone for dropping this one. There are games you pencil in as expected wins. Good teams win them – the Swans should have won this, and if we get to the end of August and things are really tight in the bottom half of the eight, John Longmire and his boys may just look back at this outing and be able to pinpoint where it all went awry.
WHERE’D BUDDY GO?
I believe you’ll find him in Sam Frost’s back pocket.
After a very iffy start that saw Franklin involved in everything, Frost was really able to control the contest against Buddy, to the point where Franklin started playing for free kicks. Keep in mind, Buddy was all over the Hawthorn defenders in the first quarter, taking grabs, assisting goals and kicking them, himself.
And then… he was a shadow of that player from quarter time onwards.
Buddy had a goal, a goal assist, two contested grabs and three touches in the first quarter. After that, he added no goals, no contested marks, no goal assists and finished with just nine touches of the footy. Swans fans were screaming for Franklin free kicks at stages, but the truth of the matter is that Bud stopped trying to win the footy and started trying to con the umpire.
Once you start playing that game, you’re on a long road to ruin.
SO, WAS THAT A CLARKSON MASTERPIECE?
Funnily enough, I don’t think it was. It was just a concerted team effort with a high degree of pressure. If that was Clarkson’s directive – “hey… go out there and really apply a lot of pressure” then yeah, I guess that was a masterpiece.
However, if, as I suspect, that was the Hawthorn team finally clicking on all cylinders, and a Sydney team failing to respond, then I reckon it may have been the perfect storm of the Hawks actually working in sync, the pressure gauge being much higher than usual, the free kick count going heavily in the Hawks’ favour, and the brown and gold defence playing their best game of the season.
A great win on the road, but far out… how disappointing from a Sydney team that promised so much heading into this one!
SO, WHO GETS VOTES?
This is not an easy one, as I reckon the Hawks had plenty to choose from, and despite some good numbers, the Swans didn’t really have anyone who made a significant impact to the point where I’d have them in the top five.
5 – J CEGLAR
I cannot go past his clearance work. He was huge and really had something to prove. Consider this his statement game. Ned Reeves can play seconds for a while.
4 – T MITCHELL
Into everything in the first half and really set up the win. Msde contest after contest, and when the opposition coach deploys a stopper onto you at half time, you know you’re doing some damage.
“Oh… his possessions don’t hurt…” Worst take, ever!
3 – B HARDWICK
Isaac Heeney? No probs. Tom Papley? No probs. Hardwick was the master of his domain inside defensive fifty, and his work to nullify two of the best offensive players in the league was a standout.
2 C JIATH
Was fantastic in the rebounding role and provided fantastic aerial support for Frost as well.
1 – S FROST
Tamed the beast after quarter time, and not just tamed him… he took ownership of him. Fantatsic outing.
If I had to pick one Swan I was most impressed with – I mentioned Rowbottom above, so skip him, but I loved the run of Justin McInerney. They needed two or three of him to break some lines, which is why I was lamenting the loss of Warner and the prolonged absence of Gulden and Campbell. And also, the non-factor efforts of Florent – that may have been my biggest disappointment in this game.
Amartey showed a bit for the second week in a row, whilst Dane Rampe found form in the second half.
ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?
Yes, just one thing.
Tim O’Brien… I have been really harsh on him in the past, and even though he did not clunk marks in this one, there was something about his game that I did like.
He was not outmarked.
He consistently brought the ball to ground to give his small forwards a chance. Hawthorn fans would be well aware that he is simply not going to come out and take six contested marks in a game – he would have done that by now if he was going to produce that kind of form. But, if he is able to prevent intercept marks inside 50 and allow his teammates to either win the footy to cause a stoppage, whilst not first prize, it is a good second prize.
So yeah, he is the second prize in a beauty contest, $10 winner this week. Spend it wisely, Tim.