Bits And Bobs: Hawthorn v Brisbane Match Report


It was a classically Melbourne-esque day over the hallowed turf of the MCG in the lead-up to this Saturday afternoon clash between Hawthorn and the Brisbane Lions. Overcast, dreary, that slight sense of malaise that often tinges a Melbourne winter. And there was a surprise in the works, in the form of a Hawthorn win. Maybe it was a result of the fact that Brisbane didn’t want a bar of the weather, maybe it was superior desire. Whatever it was, the Hawks outworked, outmuscled and outran their more highly fancied opponents, and gained several admirers in the way they went about it, including this jaded North fan who’d love nothing more than to see a fellow straggler (though does that title even apply to them anymore?) at the bottom.

I also speculate that Damian Barrett will be requesting a time machine from AFL HQ to go back and amend his now-famous comments regarding Hawthorn’s integrity, along with a cloth to wipe the sizeable amount of egg from his face. Because this was not a team playing for Harley Reid. This was a team playing for, to quote Snapper from 3AW, the EMBLEM. And each other. And their coach. And all of the things you should play for.

Let’s get into the main talking points.



Ball movement: The Hawks were honestly fearless in their ball movement. Angles were switched when it became crowded down the line, and more often than not, these moves came off. Once the switch, or the corridor kick was complete, a loose Hawk would invariably make his way towards half-forward and search for a target inside 50. This last disposal wasn’t always something they got right, but they didn’t have to get it right every time, such was the frequency with which they broke through Brisbane’s zone. With a colossal uncontested possession differential of +103, they quite simply played most of the game on their terms. For large swathes of the match, it felt as if Brisbane were the underdogs who had to capitalise on half-chances if they were going to stay in the game, when all in Sunbury would have expected the reverse.


Coaching adjustment: A shoutout is warranted for Sam Mitchell and staff, who at half-time adjusted the team’s offensive strategy slightly. Although the Hawks showed much promise in the first half, their tendency to over-handball was getting them into trouble with increasing regularity, and so a shift to a slightly more kick-focused gameplan was the exact tonic that the team required.


Weddle: I just found out that he was a mad BFNAAK (barracked for North as a kid) so this hurts a bit to write. But Josh Weddle is the game-breaker that the Hawks sorely need. Following up from his recent Rising Star performance, he had a very busy first half, regularly sprinting away from half back. He did fade a bit in the second half, but once he’s able to use his brain at the pace he does his legs, he’s going to become a serious weapon. Especially when you add on his size. There’s a glut of half back flanker types at the Hawks, and the main criticism has generally been that they lack pace and genuine line-breaking ability. Well Hawks fans, fear no more. This man is the answer.


Newcombe third quarter: Many label the third quarter as the premiership quarter (personally I think all three of the final quarters are of equal importance), and Jai Newcombe must be part of that crowd, for he unleashed a withering third-term burst. When he wasn’t baulking his way out of traffic, he was delivering bullet passes to his forwards. Or scrounging against multiple opponents for a ground ball. Twelve touches, three clearances and a goal assist was the stat line of a properly matchwinning burst, and at times throughout I found myself thinking he’d be a great captaincy candidate. I understand that Sicily offers a lot in terms of leadership, but does whatever gulf that exists in their leadership styles compensate for the fact that Newcombe doesn’t regularly do stupid shit? Either way, Newcombe is the type to lift his teammates with his attack on the contest and ball-winning ability, and the fact that the Hawks picked him up in the midseason draft just rubs the rest of the competition’s noses in it.


Obviously, James is still vital, though: Yes, James Sicily might regularly suffer from crippling bouts of white-line fever, but it’s doubtful as to whether there’s a single other player in the comp more important to a team’s structure than Sicily is to Hawthorn. A bloke who plays well above his height of 186cm, marshalls the team’s entire defence, and has a kick on him the footage of which should arguably be collated and exhibited in the National Gallery. It was another imperious display from him, with 32 touches, 12 marks, 10 intercept possessions and 8 one percenters. Even though he let Eric Hipwood get off the chain on occasion, I don’t think the Hawks win without him.




Slow play: The Lions did not move the ball like premiership contenders this game. Perhaps credit is warranted for the Hawks’ ability to switch between a man-on-man setup and a defensive zone depending on the situation, perhaps the Lions felt they’d receive the four points just by turning up and were victims of their own lethargy. Either way, there were a plethora of long kicks down the line, lateral kicks, and a complete lack of movement forward of the ball, to either create space or simply present an option. It was boring, and it was bland.


Tactical blunder?: One particularly puzzling aspect given the Lions’ ball movement woes was the fact that Keidean Coleman, who displayed form last year which could’ve almost netted him an All-Australian nomination, and at a guess would be in the Lions’ top five fastest players, started as the sub. Chris Fagan realised his mistake at three-quarter time and swapped out Daniel Rich, who’s looking more and more like he should be put out to pasture for good, but it was clear from the first quarter that Brisbane could’ve used Coleman’s run.


Smothers: One thing that I imagine Chris Fagan has drummed into his troops is defensive discipline, and for large parts of the game, his team displayed such endeavour. Smothers in particular were common occurrences as the Lions buckled down defensively. Some stolen handballs in the first quarter provided some excitement, and Brandon Starcevich laid a brilliant smother to prevent what would’ve been a regulation goal for Sam Butler deep in the third term. Dunkley had several smothers throughout the day and was a menace in midfield all game. It’s a shame he had so few mates.


Daniher is still stupid: I’d wager that Anthony Daniher wasn’t the sharpest amongst his siblings, at least if his son is anything to go by. Aside from some absolutely laughable attempts at conning the umpire by flopping, as well as a trademark unrealistic attempt at marking, for which he was rightly penalised, Joe Daniher had an absolutely brain-dead moment deep in the third quarter. With Brisbane experiencing a 2-1 outnumber at a loose ball on their forward 50, Daniher did the hard part by shouldering a Hawthorn opponent out of the way. Everyone watching could see the merit in this move; Cam Rayner could now pick the ball up and waltz inside 50 for a scoring opportunity. Buuuuuut it seems no one told that to Joe Daniher, as, whilst kneeling on the ground as a result of the impact of his bump, he inexplicably tried to grab the ball. This thwarted Rayner’s own attempt at picking it up, and ultimately allowed Hawthorn reinforcements to enter the contest and begin yet another rebound. There’s stiff competition for what is the outright dumbest moment displayed by Daniher on a football field, but this would be up there, make no mistake.


Rayner is large: Cam Rayner is an extremely strong unit, and though he hasn’t yet justified the Lions’ selection of him at pick 1 in the 2017 draft, he had some good moments in this one. An immense pack mark saw him put his team up by 11 points shortly before half-time, and throughout periodic stints in the centre, his core strength ensured that he could break whatever tackles came his way, absorbing the defensive pressure and giving off to a free teammate. He’s a potential game-breaker and it would be nice to see him fully take that next step.



And this one’s for both teams:

Payne vs. Lewis: Without a doubt the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the day was that involving Mitch Lewis and Jack Payne. Although Lewis kicked four goals, 1 of which was a classy opportunistic snap, and made a clear difference to the outcome, I’d have to split the points between them. Because Payne had some vital spoils and often showcased a superior ability to read the ball off the clearance, allowing him to take the relieving mark. There’s not a lot that even prime Bruce Doull would’ve been able to do with some of the delivery that Lewis received, and I think Payne deserves credit for not getting down on himself and fighting till the end despite the defensive structures of his team upfield resembling a sieve.

Finally, it will be interesting to see what comes of the tackle laid on Hugh McCluggage by James Sicily. Clug appeared to hit his head and have his neck bent at a weird angle in a bit of a rolling motion from the Hawthorn captain. There was also another player involved in the clash, which may have added to the angle in which he fell in the tackle. Lots to sort through on that one. The MRO will have their work cut out for them, but the importance of Sicily to this Hawthorn side has been evident over the last three weeks. When he is in the team, the Hawks walk taller.


And that’s all the bits and bobs covered for today, aside from the final score, which was 15.8.98-11.7.73. If you think I missed out on a bit or a bob, I probably did, but this caper takes it out of you. I’ve not written so many words since that angry letter to KFC ripping into them for the continued decline in quality of the Zinger Box. Till next time.



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