If any Hawthorn fans were still on the fence about the state of the rebuild of the playing list, this game against the top-of-the-ladder Magpies would have given them an almighty shove into the realms of being completely and utterly on board.
Hell, it may have pushed them into areas they haven’t been since the Hawks were in contention.
There is something about being there when a team turns the corner, isn’t there? Seeing things come together, watching the young talent become stars, the contributors become reliable, and the doubters have their mouths shut tight?
Sm Mitchell would be a happy man this evening, with his boys not only taking it up to the Pies, but smashing them in several important areas of the game. +97 in disposals, +16 in inside 50s, 18-3 in centre clearances, and a whopping +63 in marks, the Hawks took Collingwood on, shut down the middle of the ground and made them earn every single possession.
With James Sicily controlling the back half basically unopposed, and Finn Maginness proving that there is definitely a place in the game for a hard-nosed, no-bullshit tagger, the Hawks ran away from the last-quarter specialists to win by 32 points and give an indication as to what is on the horizon for this club.
Hawthorn will add another talented youngster to their list this off-season. At the moment, they have the number three pick (likely to be number four once bids on Jed Walter come, but the style of play and commitment of those already on the list in this game gave the strongest indication yet that the Hawks are on the right track, and this group could lead them back to the promised land as other teams continue to flounce about with continuous rebuilds of their own.
As for the Pies… two losses in a row – is this a cause for concern? Or does the best team in the game shrug this off and move on to the next one?
Let’s jump into The Big Statements of the Hawks’ win over the Pies.
FINN MAGINNESS OWNED NICK DAICOS
Okay, first I will address the arguments that will come in defence of Nick Daicos.
Yes, he is just 20 years of age. Yes, he was injured in the course of the game. And yes, he had the attention of someone whose sole purpose was to stop him being effective.
And now, take all those arguments, put them in a nice little compartment and file them away – they don’t matter. The young superstar was comprehensively beaten by a disciplined and physical defensive player right from the get-go. The injury he sustained occurred when Daicos moved to full forward in an attempt to break the tag.
Prior to that, he had two touches of the footy in a quarter and a bit – one of them was a kick in.
Whilst at full forward, he did manage a nice lead and strong mark, however, standing in the way after taking the mark was Hawthorn defender, James Blanck, and the two collided, leaving Daicos limping and unable to break out of a jog for a while. The injury was obviously hampering him until he was taken from the ground for the final time and put on ice until next week… or maybe longer depending on the post-game analysis.
But to blame the injury would be to sell Finn Maginness short. The Hawks’ stopper was supreme, giving Daicos no room to move around stoppages (one clearance for Daicos) and he consistently had a hand, or two hands, actually, on the Brownlow favourite whenever he went near the footy.
Daicos was gifted a goal on a soft push and shove in the third quarter (this was against Seamus Mitchell, not Maginness) but from that point on, he didn’t get near it again, finishing the game with a career-low five disposals.
I know it is not sexy to celebrate a tagger in the modern game. It’s like glorifying a goalie in ice hockey whilst those scoring usually get the accolades, but you rarely see someone so overwhelmingly nullify a star of the game the way Maginness did in this one. He is an aerobic beast – you cannot outrun him – and he is pretty damn strong, too. He was the ideal opponent for Daicos in this game and I applaud Sam Mitchell for having the balls and foresight to do what teams should have been doing all season long – making the young star earn each and every kick.
Watching this game, it was painfully apparent that Sam Mitchell’s modus operandi is to win at all costs. If that means deploying a tagger, so be it. If that means flying in the face of what every other coach is doing, yep, bring it on. And if that means his Hawks go out and play unsociable footy again, they’re just about in the right spot to start doing that all over again.
The way they played this game reeked of the glory years, and with Mitchell, a relentless competitor as a player, at the helm, I am sure we’ll see not only Maginness getting in the face of opposition stars for a while, yet, but the Hawks starting to walk a fine line between being competitive and being overly aggressive.
And I have to say… I love it.
JAMES SICILY WAS PERMITTED TO RUN HIS OWN RACE
How many times did you see the Hawks look for options, only for their captain to bob up, unopposed in the defensive fifty?
James Sicily took 19 marks in this game – wanna know how many of them were uncontested?
ALL OF THEM!
You can call it negligence or arrogance, but the fact that Craig McRae opted to have nobody play on Sicily in his role as the creator from halfback was damning. With 37 touches, 11 intercepts, and three direct goal assists, the Hawthorn captain did as he pleased. He had Taylor Adams for company for a while and dismissed him like a wayward child. Brody Mihocek found himself in the presence of Sicily for a while, as well, but again, Sicily seemed to pay him little mind. It was as though he knew what his role was and was determined to play it despite whatever the Pies could throw at him.
And eventually, they just stopped throwing anything at him.
At times, it was as though Sic invited pressure to come to him, only to hang the footy out a little wider and kick around the outstretched hands of the oncoming opponent, such was the feeling he was in complete control of the game. It was quite ridiculous to watch him collect the footy, stop, wait, assess, and then deliver. It was as though he was the only bloke on the field with the time to do that, and given there was a bloke named Scott Pendlebury on the other side, that’s saying something.
I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Sicily. I love the passion and the undoubted skill the bloke possesses, but there have been moments over the journey where his actions have been detrimental to the club. Of course, that goes hand-in-hand when someone’s game is built on emotion, but it doesn’t mean it’s great. What was great in this game was that Sic was not only in complete control of the game, but of his emotions. There were no outbursts, no wild gesturing, and no comments that cost his team 50 metres.
It was possibly the best game he has had as captain, and it just so happened to come in the best win he has had as captain. Stopping the Pies is one thing – continuing to play your own game is another, and with Sic manning the defensive fifty, his composure and excellent ball use gave the Hawks exactly what they needed.
It was a true captain’s knock.
THE MCCREERY OPTION
As we look at a Collingwood team that was comprehensively beaten, you try to find some of the positives that came out of a game that was pretty ordinary, as a whole.
One of them was the move of Beau McCreery into the middle and what he provided.
Anyone who loves good, old-fashioned footy would have McCreery as one of their favourite players to watch. He does not screw around, isn’t flashy, and makes things happen on sheer will alone. Often deployed as a pressure forward, he had the opportunity to spend a bit of time on the ball in this game, and it is an option that Craig McRae will likely explore a little more as he Pies start looking for a little more grunt.
And McCreery brings grunt every time he goes near the footy.
His stats are not going to blow anyone away – or blow anyone, for that matter… they’re just not those type of stats. 11 touches, two clearances, and four tackles don’t speak of a guy that made much of a difference, but three of his four disposals in the last quarter were contested and he cracked in at every contest. One of the better plays of the day saw him take the game on, handball out in front of himself, follow up and ensure the Pies were able to conjure a scoring shot. There was nowhere near enough of that from the usual suspects, but adding McCreery to the mix keeps the Collingwood midfield honest – he will, never, ever not try.
THE WORST GAME OF DARCY MOORE FOR THE SEASON?
It felt like it was his worst game. He made strange decisions, seemed to be wearing his boots on the wrong feet when it came to kicking, and generally, failed to have a huge impact on the game.
I’m not sure that stat-heads will view his game in a negative light, as he had ten intercepts and eight rebound fifties, which will no doubt bolster their arguments, but his efforts did not pass the eye-test at all, and there were quite a few occasions where his poor decision making left his team wide open to be scored against.
Early in the game, it was Brayden Maynard making silly errors (indirectly responsible for two goals), but Moore seemed to take that mantle the more the game progressed. He was fumbly, and as unsure of himself as I am using chopsticks, these days. He looked nothing like the bloke that had dominated games of footy this season.
Having watched a heap of him this season, I am sure this was but a bump on the road, and with the Hawks owning the corridor, it would have been difficult for any defender to remain on top for the entirety of the game, so he gets a pass from me…
… this week.
THE PIES WON THE TACKLE COUNT
This was a complete shock to me. At the game, it just felt like the Hawks were so far out in front in terms of their pressure that they had to have laid more effective tackles.
Like a nerd, I take notes of those who make big plays, and running down the bloke with the ball is always held in my highest esteem. Despite the bloke in front of me turning around to me every second minute to tell me what I should add in the review (I should not wear a Mongrel Punt top to the footy) I managed to note that the biggest and best of the tackles came from the blokes in brown and gold.
Of course, the last quarter tackle by Scrimshaw to take down Jordan de Goey was brilliant, but the effort to collar Darcy Moore, the second and third efforts of James Worpel and Conor Nash, and the tackle of Jai Newcombe on Oleg Markov, they were the ones that stood out. The Hawks may have laid fewer tackles (they were -9 for the game), but the ones they did lay stuck and halted the run of the Pies completely.
Of the Pies, the one bloke that did lay a tackle I noted – Beau McCreery… he always makes his tackles count.
WILL DAY – REAL DEAL
Prior to this season, the signature of Will Day was the one I thought was most important to the future of the Hawthorn Football Club. He is now signed, sealed, and delivered until the end of the 2027 season, and irrespective of what the Hawks are paying him… I reckon they got a bargain.
Whilst the Hawks have excellent grunt workers in the guts, Day’s role as the first-release player at those stoppages will be pivotal to how high this team can climb over the next few years. There is a bit of Marcus Bontempelli about him, the way he continually keeps the footy in front of him and controls it without being in control… if that makes sense?
Bont uses his forward momentum and trust in his own skills to make the footy talk, and Day is really starting to show a fair amount of that, as well. Now averaging almost 26 touches per game, I loved his work in the guts in this game. He kept his feet, worked hard with and without the footy, and his little duel with Scott Pendlebury on the far wing in the third quarter was one of those moments where you sit back, take it in, and realise that he well and truly belongs at the highest level. Not just as a player, but as a star of the game.
I admit, I was very relieved when it was announced that he had recommitted to the Hawks. The team has a heap of young stars coming through, but Day may end up shining the brightest of them all by the time all is said and done.
THE BUMP IS ALIVE
The clash between Bobby Hill and Josh Ward on the far wing was an absolute ripper, with both blokes displaying unwavering commitment to the contest.
Hill seemed to have a better angle than Ward and as a result, was able to tuck up and crunch the Hawks youngster. The resultant spillage saw the Hawks push forward, and Chad Wingard dished a handball to the running Mitch Lewis for a long goal.
You could feel it at the moment – the Hawks believed. As Lewis celebrated, several players went to Ward as he sucked the big ones (breaths, weirdos… I shouldn’t have to explain that!), as it was his commitment, knowing what was coming that allowed the Hawks to surge forward. With the roar of the crowd, you can seldom hear the crash of bodies, but everyone heard that one.
As an older fella, it was refreshing to see both players hit the contest, hit each other, and the umps not automatically blow the whistle like they’re netball refs. Long live the bump – gauging by the reaction of the crowd around me, it is still a very important aspect of the game.
Another very nice outing from Chad Wingard in this one, with the former Power star having clean hands all game. He didn’t hit the scoreboard, himself, but his work up the field was fantastic to give the Hawks an option when they needed one.
That’s two weeks in a row he has had 26 touches and you have to go back to 2021 to find him bettering those numbers.
A really interesting clash between Blake Hardwick and Jamie Elliott.
Elliot finished with three goals, but Hardwick had several wins in key contests, as well in a contest that felt like a break-even one, but given Elliott had three of the Pies’ 11 goals, you’d almost have to say he took the chocolates.
James Worpel is still out of contract after this season, right? He has looked very strong over the past two-or-so months, and was great in the middle of this one, again. Just the 23 touches, but with seven clearances and a few nice fend-offs to buy time, he is improving the value of his next deal every week.
Nice to see the Mitch Lewis/Jacob Koschitzke tandem working well together. I’ve often found Kosi to be a little robotic in the way he plays, but he was very solid in this one.
Breust v Quaynor was a nice little one-on-one, with Quaynor giving the 500-goal man way too much of a legrope at times. I like IQ – he looked like he was wearing a do-rag in this one, but it was just a wide headband… I dig it.
Brandon Ryan, huh? One part baby giraffe, one part elegant gazelle… three goals. You take that every day of the week.
Nathan Murphy… if you have a glass jaw, please don’t go throwing haymakers masquerading as spoiling attempts, lest someone put one on your chin again. I used to think that James Sicily had the most punchable face in the league, but Murphy might be taking that title.
I’m not sure where Tom Mitchell is at. He was beset upon every time he touched the footy in the first half, as the Hawks obviously know how quick his hands are. He was replaced when Oleg Markov came into the game, and for once, the Pies’ sub was completely ineffective. Mitchell’s first half of the season was excellent, and I have to admit, I felt kind of sorry for him sitting on the bench as the sub again (is that three in a row where he has been starting sub, or subbed out?).
He’s better than that.
Next week, the Pies catch up with the Cats on Friday night in what is certain to be a monster clash. Luckily, it is not being played at Half-Finished Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Hawks get the Dogs on Sunday arvo, and if both teams repeat their form from this weekend, it should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
The Hawks will be back sooner than expected, and the Pies… well, they still sit pretty on top of the ladder. I don’t think they’re spooked just yet.
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