AAMI Series – Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn Review – HB’s Freebie

Coming into this game, just as it was in the match sim just over a week ago, all the questions were around how the Hawks’ defence would be able to contain the aerial attack of the Western Bulldogs.

We got our answer.

They can’t.

If not for inaccuracy early in the game this may have been a 100-point loss for the Hawks, with their back six looking incredibly vulnerable against the marking prowess of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Aaron Naughton.

Aside from a second-quarter revival from the Hawks, which we’ll cover, as it was likely one of the best changes of tactics you’ll see, it was a dominant performance from the Dogs which became increasingly evident after the halftime break, when they started to convert their shots at goal.

Enough yapping, HB. Time to tell the story of how the Dogs tore the Hawks up.


And they did tear the Hawks up.

The score worm in this game would have been very similar to the match sim, if not in total scores, then in its pattern. The last time they met, the Hawks fought back hard in the second, only to be overwhelmed after the main break. Exactly the same thing occurred here – who’d have thought with the same teams fronting up in successive weeks, huh?



It was really just a matter of time before the Dogs started kicking straight.

With 2.12 on the board at halftime, the Dogs had dug themselves a hole and they needed to climb out. In order to do that, they would need to rectify the horrendous kicking at goal that plagued the team in the first half.

Aaron Naughton, Lachie McNeil, and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan were the main offenders, but they had plenty of mates peppering the goals in the first half, with only the two big blokes hitting the scoreboard.

Fast forward to the third quarter, and it was those same two big blokes who pulled things back for them, with Jamarra and Naughton combining for four goals, and Rhylee West chipping in with two, as well.

It was as though a switch was flipped as the third quarter started, and the Dogs started dominating out of the centre square. This, of course, gave the pair of Naughton and Ugle-Hagan exactly what they wanted – contests with even numbers inside fifty.

For the game, the pair combined for eight goals, with Naughton al so dragging in three contested grabs, including two in the turning point third quarter.

Of course, we were reminded several times that Jamarra is out of contract following this season, and seriously, if he isn’t re-signed soon, any club with any designs on being a contender in the next eight or nine years should be looking at selling the farm to get him.

Personally, I hope he stays at the Kennel – I have a lot of time for players who recommit to the team that drafted them (unless they’re getting screwed over for game time). Jamarra looks settled inside the Dogs’ forward arc. He has brilliant hands, displays great vision, and is the type of forward you wish you had at your own club.

I know I do.

I reckon Naughton will one day end up playing backup to Jamarra, and that is no shot at him. The young fella just oozes class – that first goal of the game, leading up and marking on the fifty metre arc, turning onto that left foot and banging one through from outside 50… it reminded me of someone.

I can’t quite picture who.

Can you?



After the second quarter fightback from the Hawks, it was as though Tom Liberatore looked around at the Hawthorn midfield, containing two pretty good contested footy winners (James Worpel and Jai Newcombe) and said “let me show you how this is done, kids.”

Libba made a complete and utter mockery of stoppage work, picking up four clearances (including three in the middle) as he led the Dogs on a rampage out of the guts. He totalled 13 clearances for the game, had 11 touches in the third quarter, alone, and generally made everyone else look like hesitant kids when there was a footy to be won.

Not that they were – Jai Newcombe would throw himself in front of a car to win the footy. But Libba would throw himself in front of a train, and probably get up after it.

His efforts sparked the Dogs, giving the Hawks no drive out of the middle at all, and allowing his own team to start kicking to position as opposed to bombing long and high, hoping for a big mark. That tactic brought them undone in the second quarter – he was not going to allow it to occur again.

I was always an admirer of the way his father went about footy – I don’t think any one man ever did so much in the game whilst possessing so little in terms of natural ability. Tony did things the hard way, via hard work, and plenty of that has rubbed off on Tom.

Chances are the Dogs re-asserted themselves and took control of this game without Libba in the mix. Maybe the power of the key forwards and the drive from Marcus Bontempelli was enough to kickstart the team, but having Libba out there with his relentless attack on the footy and his no BS style… it made it a hell of a lot easier for the Dogs to do, and a hell of a lot harder for the Hawks to prevent.

Three votes – T Liberatore.

Or maybe three votes – M Bontempelli – 32 touches, eight tackles and a goal are pretty tough to ignore, aren’t they?



It was a relatively quiet first quarter for Ryley Sanders in his second official hit out for the club. It was always going to be, as in his first game, he had nine touches and a goal in the first quarter to set the tone for what was to come.

In this one, he worked his way into the game beautifully, giving everyone a glimpse as to why he has been called a “lock” to play Round One for weeks, now.

He got better as the game progressed, which tells us his tank is excellent, and after 18 touches through the first three quarters, he finished like a train, picking up 12 in the last to join in on the fun at the Hawks’ expense.

One of the bozos on commentary made the point during the call that he was always in the frame, and he was – like a drunk at a wedding crashing the photos. Every time there was a stoppage, Sanders was there to contest. Every time the ball was in dispute, he was either wrestling for it, or waiting for it to pop out. His hand sin close were excellent, and his ability to be clean with his disposals, either in traffic or out wide, is something that has not been made enough of.

When he touches the footy, good things happen.

Kelli Underpants gave him the Poochie treatment at times, often wondering “Where’s Ryley? I wonder what Ryley is up to…” whenever he wasn’t near the footy, but you know what? He deserved the attention.

30 disposals and ten score involvements… Dogs fans would be rapt with what they saw in this one. And they’d be rapt they’re going to see so much more in the years to come.



I’ve gotta give some credit to Sam Mitchell and his troops here.

Some coaches stick to their guns and give you the “we believe in our system” schtick when they’re getting hammered. Mitchell doesn’t mind addressing issues and making changes.

And by god, those changes worked in the second quarter.

The Hawks came out with a short kicking, hard-running style that saw some pretty impressive end-to-end footy. Jack Ginnivan will get a lot of the attention, kicking 2.2 and using the footy well, but for me, it was the old stager, Luke Breust, that made magic.

You may look at the stats for him the second quarter and without having a glance, myself, I reckon you’d think they weren’t that impressive.

Now, I’ll have a look – yep, four touches and that’s it. Now I sound dumb… but if you watched the way Breust controlled the game with just four touches, I am sure you’d agree with me. He just finds time – much like Scott Pendlebury. He has the turning circle of a unicycle, able to cut the angles to make his desperate opponent miss the tackle by inches, and in the process, allowing him to spot up a teammate.

Whether working up to half-back, or running toward the goal, himself, Breust was a killer, and continues to be one of the best small forwards in the game.

The Hawks relished having Breust and Ginnivan up and about. Jai Newcombe continued on his merry way, with eight of his 37 touches in that quarter, and Karl Amon worked hard back into defence to allow the Hawks run and carry. He had 860 metres gained for the game.

The Hawks put it all together for half an hour until the Dogs worked them out, started leading at the ball carrier again, and started kicking truly, however, there are things to grasp onto the for Hawks – seeds of hope amongst a ten goal whipping, that will keep the passion burning until the wins start to come again.



I have to give credit for the nickname to my fellow Mongrel, Brett Hodgson, who is not the biggest Mabior Chol fan, being a Suns supporter.

Truth is, I am not the biggest Mabior Chol fan, either, so before I started to write this, I sat back, ate some Cadbury Twirl Bites that were left over from my son’s birthday cake making (it was a Bluey cake – I made it, myself and it was pretty damn good!) and examined what I didn’t like about his game in this one, and whether there was anything I did like.

It turns out there was something I didn’t mind – he made for a decent backup ruck, and was strong enough to match it, body-to-body with Tim English at stoppages. He only had three hit outs, but he was able to cover the ground and work defensively, as well. He also made a lovely centering kick on the back of some great Luke Breust pressure.

But that was about it.

As a forward, to quote the late, great Ole Anderson, Chol was the drizzling shits. He was constantly led to the ball by Buku Khamis, who attacked every contest like he had a point to prove, often leaving Chol in his dust, as though the Hawks forward was hoping the ball would somehow magically appear out the back of the pack for a cheap disposal and possibly an easy goal. It started me thinking about how many of those goals he kicked at Gold Coast when he led their scoring a couple of years back in the absence of Ben King. He’d just kind of bob up in general play, get a great bounce, and snag a goal, but it happened far too often to be a fluke. Let’s call them opportunist’s goals.

He was brought to this Hawthorn side to offer a contest in the air, but he did anything but in this game, taking one mark for the contest and looking like he was scared to stretch out and actually attack the the ball in flight.

If I wasn’t a fan going into this game, I was even less of a fan coming out of it.

The Hawks have signed this bloke until the end of the 2027 season – that’s a long time to have someone sitting in the VFL team, but another effort like this one when it starts to matter, and I am not sure how you excuse it.

Ole Anderson would have been spot on the money – the drizzling shits, this performance. He has to be better than this.



In the last quarter, Cody Weightman finally let everyone know he was playing in this game.

Oh, he’d been out there for the majority of the game, and he had a few inconsequential touches, but the tale of his evening revolved around the fact that Finn Maginness drifted back to play in the back pocket, and picked up Weightman in the process.

In one of the true wins for the Hawks, Maginness blanketed Weightman, restricting him to six touches through the first three quarters of the game before being released to play further up the field. This was Weightman’s time to shine, picking up eight last-quarter touches and snagging a goal.

However, if you’re looking for a positive for the Hawks, it is that Maginness, who has largely been the type of player that either plays a tagging role or doesn’t play at all, looks to have found another niche to his game. Playing in the pocket, he looked completely at home, and made life extremely difficult for the elusive forward.

I rate Weightman highly – he has come a long way from the player who started getting booed for ducking in contests a few years back, but he was beaten by a very determined defensive stopper in this game, and the Hawks can now explore where and when they deploy Maginness to put the brakes on in the midfield, and when they can send him into defence to do the same to the smaller blokes.

It was a win in a game that had few of them.



Another solid outing from Nick Coffield across half-back, and James Harmes in the middle. I think Harmes gets a run in Round One, as he adds some defensive grunt, but the Dogs may opt for Bailey Dale to come back in before Coffiled gets a run back at senior footy.

Rory Lobb… whilst the other two big Dogs inside fifty were doing their job, it took Lobb until the last quarter to get a sniff.

But that’s okay!


Because Lobb was responsible for keeping James Sicily busy in this game, and when you look at it that way, all of a sudden, his role becomes a little more clear. It doesn’t matter that he had three disposals to three-quarter time – Sicily only had four intercepts for the whole game. Sometimes, it is good to look at the whole picture before making an assessment on a player’s game, and Lobb sacrificed his own numbers in this one for the betterment of the team. I am no fan, but I am fair, and he did his job in this one.

Buku Khamis – I covered him above, giving Mabs Chol a bath. With him and LIam Jones both on-song early in the game, it drove Mitch Lewis right outside fifty to get involved. Big win for the Dogs.

Lewis looks heavy at the moment, almost a little lumbering. Was I the only one who noticed that?

I do like Massimo D’Ambrosio off half-back for the Hawks, and I’d like to see the Hawks look to use him a little more often. He is classy by foot and will wait for the right option before banging it down the ground.

Great to see Adam Treloar looking fit heading into the season. I heard he hasn’t been injury-free at this stage of the year for six years.

Ethan Phillips had a tough time this week and found himself lacking a yard of pace against Naughton and Jamarra. As a result, he tried to make up for it with lunges at the footy, and pseudo-pressure that often resulted in a free kick as he lurched in desperation at his opponent. Another learning experience.

And that might do me.

Notice there wasn’t a heap about Bont?

I thought you might.

The truth is that he is just bloody incredible. His 14 touches in the third were just as important, if not more important than Libba’s, but I just wanted Libba to get the credit for once. I know Bont is great. I know you love him. It’s hatrd not to.

It’s been so good to watch Tim English go from being bullied in the ruck to being this weapon. I can remember when his head looked too big for his body. Now, it looks too small. He just cannot get the balance right! Haha.

Seriously, though… the work he has put in has been phenomenal and now looks the part of a legit powerhouse. He has come so far.



This was a killing.

It was three quarters of domination to one, and you know what? Good on the Hawks for working things out and establishing themselves for a while. They led by three goals at the main break. But that also gives an indication as to just how good the Dogs were once they started hitting the scoreboard.

With that defence, this is going to be a long season for the Hawks backline. And for their supporters.

As for the Dogs, I would have liked to see them against a team capable of defending in the air, but I guess we get that in Round One against the Dees. Plenty to like about them, but you have to consider the opposition before you start pencilling them in for September footy.


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