Purely looking at ladder positions coming into this game, a blowout would be expected. With Melbourne beginning to really build momentum as they head towards September in 4th, they were taking on the 16th placed Hawks – who have been on a giant killing run in recent weeks.
Would the Demons keep their charge going and solidify their top-four position, or could the upstart Hawks (even without Mitch Lewis and Jai Newcombe) claim another scalp and continue to disrupt the finals placings? On a chilly Melbourne afternoon at the home of football, here’s what we learned.
Don’t Let Me Down … Breust
As a Cats fan, I’ve watched Luke Breust battle us for a long time. He’s an ultra-consistent small forward who doesn’t get anywhere near the level of respect he deserves. He started really well in this one, and set the tone for the Hawks in the opening quarter. Whether it be his positioning, and subsequent ability to crumb a pack or find space on the lead, or his finishing (in front of goal and his field kicking), he was the difference early.
Breust has an uncanny ability to be involved in scores and to bob up at key moments with a score assist or impacting the scoreboard himself. He’s a great asset for the Hawks to have while they continue to blood young players.
Just a brief note on this. Coming into this contest, the Hawks were the number one side for centre bounce clearances over the last month. How would they fair missing Jai Newcombe? The Hawks took centre clearances in a tight struggle 13-11, but took clearances overall 35-26. They had a good day around the ball, but did still miss Newcombe at times – especially when the Dees started to take control.
This was a cracking game on-field, but off-field, the coaches did some serious work in this one. Whether you follow the Hawks or someone else, no doubt you know of the ability of James Sicily. He reads the ball so well, that he makes intercept marking look easy, and then he sets up the Hawks rebound game. He’s not an easy matchup, either. So, how did the Demons combat this?
Wingman Lachie Hunter would often push forward to occupy Sicily and then would lead up towards the ball carrier, pulling the Hawks skipper from the fall of the ball. This took away Sicily’s ability to be the spare behind the ball. He was manned by Jake Melksham for most of the game. Melksham got involved in the game and often played behind Sicily, forcing him under the ball and not giving him space to jump. A combination of both of these, and the ball use upfield from the Dees took away some of Sicily’s strengths and limited his influence. Tick to Simon Goodwin.
Finn Maginness is building a reputation as a genuine stopper. We haven’t seen many active taggers in the game for some time, so to see it come back, and successfully, is a big tick to what Maginness offers. So, he was sent to tag Clarry. He limited Clayton Oliver to 10 disposals in three quarters – the tag was dropped for the final quarter (and Oliver then had some influence).
Maginness is an elite runner and goes wherever his opponent does. What’s interesting to note is Simon Goodwin’s comments post-game: “Clearly Finn Maginness is someone that doesn’t want the ball, so that makes it a bit challenging and a bit frustrating.” This was said in reference to his tactics … Goody, a tagger’s job isn’t so much to win the football. It’s to limit the best players in the opposition getting the football. To be a nuisance. To annoy their opponents, Maginness did all of these, and he did them well. Even when Clarry tried to rough him up at quarter-time, Maginness wasn’t phased. Tick to Sam Mitchell.
The Hawks are building a recognisable brand that places an emphasis on taking the game on, using the corridor, and being unafraid to change angles and take risks. This approach brings reward, but also can result in being scored against. In this one, there was a clear emphasis on putting more speed on ball to counter Melbourne’s highly-respected defence. They were trying to avoid bombing long and kicking to contests, thus reducing the impact of Steven May and Jake Lever and how they intercept. The Hawks did this well for much of the game. However, the Dees responded by being more methodical with their ball movement. This would spread the Hawks zone meaning that, in the chance that a turnover occurred, the fast plays weren’t easy, because players weren’t close by for the forward handballs and run and gun style. In the end, the Dees wore down the young Hawks, and the weight of good balls inside 50 was telling in the last quarter. Tick to both coaches, with Goodwin getting the chocolates as he won the war in the end.
Sidenote: No Mitch Lewis has hurt the Hawks; Jacob Koschitzke isn’t a #1 key forward. This isn’t to say that Koschitzke can’t play the game, but he doesn’t have the presence that Lewis has. When the Hawks were able to get into space and get the ball over the Demons defensive zone, they lacked the big target up the ground to capitalise and maximise on their ball movement. I wonder if that is why they are strongly looking at Esava Ratugolea for next season?
From the Viewing Gallery
Demons skipper entered this game (his 200th) with his ledger “perfectly balanced, as all things should be” (thanks Thanos). With 99 wins, 99 losses, and a draw in 199 games, Gawn managed to tick over to 100 wins today. A great stalwart of the Demons and shows the reward of perseverance.
I’m a fan of some adjudicating parameters that allow for forwards to get shots at goal. However, the push in the back 50 metre penalty against James Blanck was overkill. We see that numerous times a game and is rarely paid. Let’s not make it touch footy.
Praise must go to Henry Hustwaite: a late in for his debut game, and he successfully hits the scoreboard just before quarter time, with his first AFL goal. He added a 2nd early in Q2 to halt some early Melbourne momentum. The Hawks may have unearthed another!
Denver Grainger-Barrass was drafted as a key defender, but is now growing into a key forward role. He leads and competes well, and as continuity with those around his grows, he has all the tools to be a pretty decent forward.
We’ve heard about the punch on Jake Melksham and Steven May had where the latter allegedly said the Dees wouldn’t have won the 2021 flag if Melksham played. Well, right now, they won’t win it if he doesn’t play. Melksham is fast becoming their most important and most consistent forward.
Will Day is so clean, especially under pressure. He played in numerous positions throughout this game and, at times, when the heat was on and the pressure high, more seasoned and well recognised players were fumbly, but Day is clean. This helps him to spread from the contest, and then find teammates in space. This was most evident during the moments he found himself behind the ball.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Luke Darcy as a commentator. He thinks he’s pretty good, but he often makes dumb comments that show his lack of preparation and awareness. Case in point today: thinking that Hawks fans were booing JvR when it’s Dees fans saying “Rooooo!”
I haven’t seen much of Bailey Laurie, but I like his effort and appetite for the contest. He throws his body at the ball, and is unafraid of physical contact. He’s a go’er and has a bright future.
Jarman Impey has had a fantastic season. He’s added some stability and class to this Hawks side. He reads the ball well, typically uses it well, and is quite unheralded. Again, Impey did his job and was important to the way the Hawks moved the ball.
The MCG has a Jeremy Cameron pocket for bad boundary umpire decisions. Just a week after he kicked a goal from out of bounds, the umpires patrolling that same section of turf missed an out of bounds that resulted in Dylan Moore winning a free kick and subsequent shot at goal. Good on Moore for playing to the whistle, but umpires … come on! Time to go to Specsavers! (also, I’m yet to see a definitive replay that the Moore kick did hit the post. Why are the media not challenging this one, as well?)
Some Hawks fans won’t like this statement, but that was a brave loss from them. They were in the game for much of it, but the class and experience of the Demons proved to be too much in the end. The Demons are entrenched in the top four and can look ahead to a double chance, while first combatting the rampaging Swans in Sydney next Sunday afternoon, while the Hawks will look to finish the season on a high as they host the Dockers on Saturday at the MCG.
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