R7 – Sydney v Hawthorn – The Mongrel Review

How do you fix this?

I don’t want to spend much time actually summarising the match, because I’m not here to gloat, and any Hawthorn supporter won’t be interested in reliving a blow-by-blow of what was a pretty disappointing outing for them. But- especially knowing there was something to be written about it- I spent much of the game wondering what exactly was going wrong.

I don’t think any Hawthorn fans would be mad to hear that this is a game Sydney were expected to win on paper. Better list, in better form, not rebuilding, etcetera. But this is a Hawks team coming off a dominant win and one who might’ve felt within a sniff if everything broke right. What I saw was a team ruthlessly committed to not giving themselves a chance to be in the game.

By that, I mean the parade of unforced errors. More turnovers for the match, gave away more free kicks (obviously some of these are dubious, but this is part of a greater picture), allowed Sydney easy ball whenever they wanted it and didn’t manage any of their own when it mattered. I noted several times that they seemed to be transitioning with ease, but as soon as play arrived in Hawthorn’s attacking areas there were no easy options to capitalise on that momentum. Just seemed like a strange way to structure an attack, especially when Sydney were able to break that defence so easily in transition, scoring three of their first nine goals directly from defensive 50. Given the context of last week, the performance they gave was genuinely concerning.



Mabior Chol is a conundrum. He led Gold Coast’s goal scoring in 2022, scored more than two goals a game in the VFL last season in a ridiculously high-powered offence, and showed enough to interest Sam Mitchell to play as the foil for Mitch Lewis.

Obviously, Hawks fans haven’t been able to see him play in the role he was recruited for, but yesterday should make Hawks fans nervous. Sydney actively targeted him coming out of defence, showing no concern for his ability to keep his feet, lay a tackle, or keep his head on straight. Chad Warner broke his ankles coming out of defensive 50, Nick Blakey was in his head all day, and he committed two massive individual errors in about a minute that sucked any momentum the team were able to create – just to name a few.

There was the free kick he gave away off the ball as Hardwick kicked a goal that would’ve cut the lead to seven, which Sydney turned into a 12 point play by immediately scoring up the other end. There was the holding the ball shortly after, which led to the same result. By the time he had a goal chalked up (due to a dubious umpiring call) his head was already lost. Mere minutes after the chalking up, he was thumping Nick Blakey into the turf off the play, and literally, as I write this the MRO have given him a week for striking. Not his day at all, and something to worry about going forward.



It struck me as strange to hear the Fox commentators refer to Chad Warner taking a bounce as arrogant once, but noteworthy when they said it twice. Not because they were right (about the bouncing), but because Sydney were playing with arrogance, and I fucking loved it. To take a moment to gloat (even though I said I didn’t want to earlier), much of my Sydney-related suffering is down to the fact that they can’t kill teams off. I’ve said it in multiple articles on this very website! Sydney love to go up big early and then take their foot off either the gas or the throat, whichever you prefer. The arrogance is reflective of a team who are in a groove and playing like it.

Making hard work of West Coast felt like the work of a team who assumed they were going to win the game before they got to the stadium. So too did the goalless second quarter last week. The arrogance, however you choose to perceive it, suggests that this is a team who are happy to make the conscious choice to win.



Sydney v. Hawthorn is a matchup for tackling purists. James Rowbottom against Jai Newcombe in the guts is one of the league’s premier tackling match ups. Rowbottom leads the league in tackles per game this season, and while Newcombe doesn’t have the same quantity, anyone who’s seen him lay a tackle knows that when he hits you, you stay hit. In that way, they act as their team’s pressure barometers because they set the standards where tackles are concerned.

As the kind of sicko who loves guys who loves tackling, this was one of the key match-ups for me. Unfortunately, it played out a bit like it did everywhere across the field – Rowbottom had six and Newcombe had two (and neither particularly memorable), while the Swans won both on the scoreboard and in the tackle count. Typically, when you win games by ten or more goals, you don’t also win the tackle count by 20+, as was the case today, which possibly hints at greater issues at the Hawks.

Also, James Rowbottom celebrated like he’d scored a goal when Logan McDonald won a free kick in their attacking 50. In terms of actions that suggest a greater culture celebrating defence, that really sticks out.



The other big action that suggests something cultural was less positive for Sydney, and it’s gonna get blown out of proportion, but I want to note it because it’s really weird. Sam Wicks, having one of his better games in red and white, kicks his second to cap a dominant run to open the second, and no one comes over to celebrate with him. There’s some murmurs in the news about him chatting up a teammate’s girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend – something along those lines. However, the clip of him kicking the goal and walking on his own to the drinks was weirdly poetic. It’s a big forward 50 when you’re on your own. Clip is here if you haven’t seen it, apologies for the accompanying commentary.