R5 – Gold Coast v Hawthorn – The Mongrel Review


Contenders or Pretenders


Damien Hardwick stated at the beginning of the season he already has “80 percent of the list required” for the Suns to be a serious contender in the coming years, while Sam Mitchell is selling a similar message to the Hawks faithful. Both coaches are being allowed to nurture their lists without much pressure being applied to their respective clubs, with little to no media pressure and seemingly with the full support of their respective Boards.

Both clubs must sell for the future, but is it real hope?


Gold Coast Suns – Serial Pretenders – The AFL’s Kindergarten 

Since their AFL inception in 2011, the Suns have always had star-studded lists but have failed to deliver on that promise at any measurable level. Historically, most of their star players have left at the earliest available opportunity to achieve success elsewhere, while the powers that be on the Board have replaced coach after coach to try and remain relevant.

Damien Hardwick, the Suns latest coaching appointment, has been labelled the Messiah for the struggling Suns. Unlike other ‘wing and a prayer’ coaching appointments, Dimma comes to the Suns with an impeccable track record with three flags under his belt.

In 2016, Dimma’s former club, the Tigers had a terrible season, but a stable Board backed in their man at the end of that season. The result of that decision was a Tiger Dynasty. Brendon Gale made a bold statement that the Tigers would win three Premierships before the end of the end of the decade under Dimma, and they did.

In a conversation I had with Brendon Gale midway during the 2017 season I asked if he was selling ‘hope’ to the Tiger faithful or did he ‘firmly believe’ – the cold stare he gave me truly indicated his belief in club at all levels, especially his belief in Damien Hardwick.

Given Hardwick’s stature in the game, he has not been pressured by the Suns Board into premising immediate success for the Suns (like other appointments), so when he says he has 80 percent of the pieces in place for success I believe him.

The immediate task for Dimma (with this Club based in the middle of Australia’s sporting graveyard, the Gold Coast) is whether he can change the losing culture of the Suns and make the Club, as a WHOLE, believe, they can be seen as serious future contenders.


Hawthorn – The AFL’s Ultimate Contenders

Name the only club to win a Premiership in every decade since the 1960’s?

The answer is the Hawthorn Football Club with 13 Premierships since 1961, including at least one Premiership every decade since. It is a phenomenal performance by the Family Club (I don’t know why, but whenever I hear the term the Family Club I immediately think of Charles Manson).

Make no mistake, there is immense pressure on Sam Mitchell from all quarters of the Club to keep the Hawks run of at least one Premiership every decade intact. Mitchell is in his third season as coach and while the Club states it is giving him time, I’m not sure how much time they will afford him if the Family Club continues to remain winless this season.

Mitchell’s Hawks needs a win.



Both clubs need a win, more for confidence than anything else. For the Suns it will keep their win/loss ledger in the black, while the Hawks need to start to separate themselves from the cellar dwellers.

Regardless of who wins of losses this match it will slip well under the radar being on Channel 503. Further, it won’t feature in the weekend highlights as the Crows have just upset the Blues, and Sam Taylor’s concussion will be the news stories of the day/week. Also, this game is pitted against the Power v the Dockers match on Foxtel’s main station, 504.

Gladly (or sadly) I will be watching game along with the true diehard supporters of both Clubs.


The Game


During the last quarter of this game, I spent more time watching the little box on the bottom right of the screen for the scores from Adelaide Oval such was the interest left in this game.

I am going to be very blunt here, that was the most un-Hawthorn performance I have ever witnessed as they were outplayed in every facet of the game. On the other hand, it is the first time I have ever seen the Suns put in a full four quarter display of dominance.

Make no mistake, the Suns were as good as the Hawks were bad.


Let’s Start with the Hawks

Last weekend the Hawks nearly stole the match from the Pies in what was probably their best quarter of footy so far this year, but that was last week.

This week I would have to go back to the dark days of the 1990’s when the Hawks nearly merged with the Demons to find a four-quarter effort from this proud club which lack so much spirit and fight.

With apologies to Jack Scrimshaw, Josh Weddle, Karl Amon, Massimo D’Ambrosio, Jarman Impey (just) and Finn Maginness (three goals), who all tried their hearts out, the rest of the Hawthorn team should be hanging their heads in shame. There is a major difference between getting beaten and getting beaten up on. The Suns totally dominated every category of this game, and easily accounted for this listless Hawthorn outfit.

As a reviewer I try to find the positives out the game for both the winner and the loser, however, this week I am struggling to find the positives for the Hawks, a team I reviewed with some optimism several times last year, even in defeat. The difference between last year and this year is stark.

Last year, I could see Hawthorn’s game plan, even if the players lacked the experience to carry it out, but this year, I fail to understand Sam Mitchell’s game plan. Hawthorn’s disposals last night were woeful, with easy targets being missed, handballs going nowhere, dropped marks, and players running around looking at each other, unsure of what they are meant to be doing. Most clubs have the ability to take the steam out a game when the opposition is on top until it is their turn to role the dice, like I said most clubs, not Hawthorn. At no stage last night did Hawthorn try to control the tempo of the game, nor were they able to command a ten-minute patch of the game where they controlled the game.

I like James Sicily as a captain, as a player, as the enforcer, and I could say the same about Jai Newcombe and James Worpel, but last night, they were all beaten and sadly for the Hawks nobody else stood up to fill the void. In essence, Hawthorn’s leadership group lacks depth and that was exposed last night when the leaders were shut down by a determined Suns outfit.


Jack Ginnivan and Mabior Chol

Mabior Chol was gifted a goal in the last quarter from a down the field free kick, but apart from that goal he had little to no impact on the game. I understand Carrara Oval (I’m not sure of the corporate name anymore) can make the ball greasy as the evening dew sets in, but Mabior dropped several easy marks and turned the ball over too many times for a player who has been in the system for such a long period of time.

Playing against a coach who has virtually sacked him twice, Chol should have been the one player who really wanted to fire shot back at his former mentor, but alas, his game, at best was mediocre. He has the potential, but there must come a day when he lives up to his potential.

Jack Ginnivan played a typical Jack Ginnivan game – kicked a goal, a few disputed free kicks not paid (especially when Mac Andrew pushed him square in the back), a bit of niggle, and 13 possessions. He was clearly not Hawthorn’s worst player on the ground, but as a Premiership player at a struggling club he needs to step up to be a leader. Celebrating a goal is part of Jack’s character, but when your team is down by 40 points it just looks wrong. Unlike most, I don’t want to destroy or remove the individualist characters from the game, but there is a time to celebrate and a time to lift your teammates.


A First Since 1970

Not since 1970 have the Hawks started a season with five straight losses. Ironically, they won the Flag in 1971. On what I saw last night this team is no chance of winning the flag in 2025.

Maybe they get some redemption against another battler in North Melbourne next week, but that is only a maybe as the Kangas under former Hawk Guru, Alastair Clarkson, will be hungry to lump further misery on this once mighty club.

After five rounds of season 2024, the once Serial Contenders are a shadow of their former self, and under the tutelage of Sam Mitchell they seem to be pretenders. If the Family Club is to win another Premiership before 2029 and keep their record intact since the 1960’s, then something must change dramatically, and very quickly.

Tonight was the most un-Hawthorn performance I have seen in my lifetime – there was no just no fight.


The Rising Suns

Bravo to the Suns for winning all four quarters tonight as consistency, even within a match, has been one of the downfalls of the Gold Coast past. Remembering the Carlton match from late last season I noted down that this game was not over at three-quarter time, even though the Suns had a healthy 40-point lead.

The Suns needed this win, a dominant win, to establish their credentials as one of the teams on the rise. I have covered a lot of Suns for the Mongrel Punt, but tonight’s win was special.

The Suns outplayed the Hawks at every level measurable and applied pressure on the Hawks for the entirety of the game. Further, every one of the kids who played tonight were match ready for AFL football.


The Kids

Sam Clohesy, Ethan Read, Jed Walter, Will Graham, Mac Andrew, Thomas Berry and Bodhi Uwland all attacked the ball with a maturity beyond their years. In their own way they are all skilled, as is any player who gets drafted to any AFL club, but what impressed me most was their team first ethic, second and third efforts, and they all played with a fearless attack on the ball.

Damien Hardwick has set a standard at the Suns already to which he expects from all 22 players who take to the field each week, of toughness, and his immediate imprimatur was clearly on display in the efforts of his new class of kids, circa 2024.

Remember the names Clohesy, Walter, Read, Andrew, Berry, Graham and Uwland as they will all become household names one day when this club starts vying at the upper echelons of the ladder.


Winners All Over the Field

It is rare a team has a game where it is nearly impossible to say anything negative about any player on the field, such was the dominance of the Suns last night. I can’t even pick on the Sub, David Swallow, as he kicked three goals in the last quarter, and he only came on because Malcolm Rosas pulled a hamstring.

The effort of Rosas after he pulled his hamstring to remain in the play and tap the ball to advantage was somewhat heroic and the kind of effort that sets the tone for the rest of the team. It was a small incidental act, but it showed a team first attitude which exemplified the Suns attitude all night.

The usual suspects of Anderson, Flanders, Rowell, Miller and Witts, still lead the way last night for the Suns last night, but it was the efforts of the Suns second-stringers like Ainsworth, Fiorini, Powell, Holman, and Humphrey who followed their example and dug in for the entirety of the match.

For too long now the Suns have relied solely on their Stars, but under Hardwick the lesser-known players are playing important roles across the field, supporting the stars and leading by example for the kids.

Up back Charlie Ballard, Sam Collins, Jack Lukosius and Sam Flanders are fast becoming one of the more dominant and feared backlines in the league. Both Ballard and Collins must be considered early candidates for All Australian selection, while Lukosius and Flanders offer scintillating run and attack form the half back line as they break through the defensive lines of the opposition. (Congrats to Jack Lukosius for 100 games.) Andrew and Uwland are learning from some of the best in the competition and they can only get better playing alongside these players.

Ben King, I so look forward to the day when you completely rip a game apart with 10 or 12 goals. Four goals last night should have been at least six or seven given your dominance, but alas you left a few on the field in the first half.


Coming Up for the Suns

Reality is the Suns won’t play to the standard of last night every week at this stage of their development given the age and lack of games for a lot of their youngsters, and form can be fleeting, but they must now be starting to believe they can achieve something special this season (meaning a spot in the finals).

The Suns would fancy their chances against Sydney next week at the SCG given they have a healthy recent record against them.


The Crowd and the Trumpeter

The crowd (or lack thereof) at Carrara last night reminded me of the old days of the VFA, especially Shepley Oval, where 5,000 to 10,000 hearty souls would gather, have a few lagers and enjoy a casual day at the footy.

As for the guy paid to play the trumpet after each Suns goal, while I totally support the local music scene, maybe an AFL game is not the right gig. Having said that, I am happy for any Muso getting paid regardless of what I think.