Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs – A Different Lens

The sun was shining at UTAS Stadium in Launceston as the giant-killing Hawks host the Dogs, who are looking to continue their climb up the ladder and into finals. Can Sam Mitchell’s young Hawks take another scalp, or will the Bulldogs do what they need to do and solidify their place inside the top six on the ladder? Here’s what took place!



Looking at the team sheets, one would imagine the area in which the Dogs could hold a significant advantage over the Hawks. In the early stages, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looked lively and competitive. Rory Lobb loomed though, as the most likely.

Much is spoken about the aerial ability of Aaron Naughton, and he displayed that in patches today. Naughton had two all-time classic contested pack marks, but his finishing let him down. The biggest question mark about Naughton is always his accuracy. If Naughton didn’t have his leap or his sticky hands, would he be much more than a park footballer? That may seem harsh, but I’ve often heard many rave about Naughton, but I’m yet to see him consistently hit the scoreboard effectively. JUH has his issues as well, and until they sort it, this will remain somewhat of an Achilles heel for them, and their club.

The Hawks curtailed the Dogs’ forwards reasonably well when they had control of the ball and the play. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Dogs were able to get their ball movement going, and threatened to steal the game late. It came down to the Dogs not taking opportunities when they presented themselves, coupled with the manic Hawks pressure – the thing that swung the game in their favour.


Midfield Battle

Both sides pride themselves on their stoppage, clearance, and contested games. The Dogs mids have a few additional seasons on the up-and-coming Hawks, but these young Hawks continue to take everything in their stride.

Finn Maginess did a great job on Tom Liberatore before he was subbed out; Conor Nash continues to develop as an out-and-out midfielder; Marcus Bontempelli had a good game (23 disposals, 12 contested, 7 clearances, 7 I50’s, and a team high 686 metres gained), but his teammates couldn’t do much to help him.

The Hawks’ midfield was dominant. They worked together well, and were all in the leading players on the ground. Between Jai Newcombe (game 50), Will Day, and James Worpel (game 100), they did most of the damage for the Hawks. They hit the scoreboard, applied serious pressure, and ran all day. Sam Mitchell will build his side around these three, and they will be a formidable force for some time.


Contrasting Styles

Handball Happy Hawks v the Kick & Control Dogs.

It was interesting watching the two contrasting styles at work, and who was able to capitalise. Some of the Hawks’ style was influenced by the wind (more handballs when kicking into the wind) however, they did use that for much of the game. You could see that they wanted to spread the field, thus spreading the Dogs’ zone, and move the ball fast. It didn’t always work, but was mostly effective. It made me think of Spiderman – well, specifically Tom Holland’s iteration. Eager, wanting to be successful, but sometimes the over-exuberance leads to monumental stuff up’s (namely defensive half turnovers in AFL parlance). There’s lots to like for the Hawks going forward.

The Dogs opted to possess the ball and kick it more. They sought to pierce through the Hawks zone, and release the ball in space by foot, allowing to hit their tall targets one out. While they had some success with this method, the Hawks pressure proved to be too much for much of the game – especially in the second half. The Dogs will need to address this if they’re to make finals and win finals.


Closing Time

Hawks lost momentum that they’d built and were under pressure, as the Dogs began to capitalise on possession dominance. The Dogs were virtually impotent through the third quarter, and the early stages of the last. Then, they flicked the switch. However, they will rue a few missed opportunities in front of goal, and their inability to navigate the Hawks’ pressure.

Tim English taking a kick out with under a minute to go was also a very interesting development. The Hawks missed a shot to end the game, but seeing English run out of the goal square, take a few bounces, and look like someone who was completely lost isn’t, I imagine, what the Dogs would have planned. If they had their time again, I imagine it would have been someone like an Ed Richards.

Karl Amon is more known for his lethal left-boot. After the subsequent (above) play on from English and the D50 clearance, Amon had to put his body on the line. He did that, laid a strong tackle, and won the game in that moment for his club.


From the Viewing Gallery

I briefly mentioned him above, but Finn Maginess is an honourable mention in terms of votes. He completely took Tom Liberatore and then Bailey Dale out of the game. He is making the tagging role one that all clubs should emulate.

The Jai Newcombe blind turn, spin, and goal from outside 50 was a thing of beauty.

Bailey Dale has immense talent and is vital to the Dogs’ ball movement, given his proficiency by foot. Today, when Maginess went to him, he was cut out of the game completely (something other clubs will no doubt look at). That said, he was swung forward during the last quarter, and managed to have a sizeable impact through his decision-making and ability to hit targets inside 50. Well done to him for fighting through the tag!

Tim English keeps on keeping on. While Ned Reeves did a great job on him, the Dogs’ big man was able to go forward in the last term, clunk a huge contested mark, and kick truly, keeping the Dogs in the game. He owned that moment.

The Hawks could have ended the game early, were it not for their 3.7 in the second term, kicking with the wind, and having the game on their terms. Again, another example of bad kicking being bad football.

Ed Richards was very good for the Dogs – one of the few. He was their link man, and spread the game with his dash and his kicking.


Well, the giant killing Hawks took another scalp, and the Dogs now are barely clinging onto their spot in the top eight. Hawthorn will look to continue their great end to the season next Sunday as they look to disrupt the Demons’ charge to September, while the Dogs look ahead to hosting the Eagles at Marvel in the early Sunday game – where they should get the four points.

That’s all from Launceston today. For more of the best reviews, be sure to subscribe to The Mongrel Punt.

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