R9 – Hawthorn v St Kilda – The Mongrel Review

Round 9

Hawthorn v St Kilda


The Ghosts the 1971 Grand Final

The 1971 Grand Final saw the Hawks and the Saints battle it out for the chance to win their second Premiership. In 1961 the Hawks won their first flag, while the most famous point in VFL/AFL history from the boot Barry Breen in the 1966 decider gave the Sainters their first taste of ultimate glory.

For most of the 1971 Grand Final, it looked like the Saints were going to come up trumps, well at least until three-quarter time, when John Kennedy gave his men an almighty spray, especially John Keddie who was moved to full-forward while the great Peter Hudson was moved out to centre-half-forward. Keddie kicked two vital goals in the last term as the Hawks banged on seven goals to three to snatch the Premiership from the hands of the luckless Saints.

A historical sidenote to this game, Peter Hudson had the chance to pass Bob Pratt’s season record of 150 goals, but he only managed three to equal Pratt’s record. It should be noted, he missed some easy goals – not to be, I guess.

Since 1971, the Hawks have gone on to win another 11 Premierships (13 in toal), while the Saints have added zero silverware to their trophy cabinet.

The 1971 Premiership win by the Hawks was the start of a modern-day dynasty with Hawthorn winning more Premiership Cups than any other club since the 1971 decider.

St Kilda, on the other hand, have had very little to cheer about. In 1997 the Saints were Jarmanised, in 2009 the Saints were Chapsized and in 2010 the Saints were Milnified.

To further rub salt into St Kilda’s misery since 1971, every other VFL club has won at least one Premiership since, including the two clubs that were that bankrupt, they had to move interstate to just survive.

Like many St Kilda supporters, I have often what could have, should have, would have been if they had won in 1971?


Hawthorn v St Kilda – Which Club is Closer?


In Ross We Trust v Mitchell’s Kindergarten

Stan Alves (1997) and Ross Lyon (2009 and 2010) have, without hesitation, have been the best two coaches for the Saints since the 1971 Granny. After a bit of a hiatus out west and in the media, the Saints are again banking on Ross Lyon to try and deliver the long-suffering club to the Promised Land.

I am not sure if the appointment of Ross is a last-ditch “Hail Mary” by the St Kilda hierarchy, or whether he can show he has the Midas touch one more time to deliver the Saints to last Saturday in September again.

Sam Mitchell took over the Hawks in 2021, a team which was free-falling after another dynasty of success. He all but gutted the leftover remnants of the successful period and started again. He has been criticised by many, and by Hawthorn standards the club has had very little success, but that would be to over-simplify things. The Board at the Family Club have backed in their man to develop the next incarnation of the Hawks.

Thus, I am looking at today’s game with an eye to the future for both clubs – which club is heading in the right direction?


UTAS Stadium 11th May 2024 – Hawthorn v St Kilda

As a stadium I really don’t like UTAS in Launceston, and for reasons I can’t quite explain, games played at UTAS often fail to live up to any great expectations. Today’s match-up was no exception. The scores may indicate that this was a dour, tight struggle, but the reality was an error-riddled game. Hawthorn won because they made less errors.


The First Quarter

In a quarter where Max King, Tim Membrey and Mitch Owens all kicked goals, it did look like the class of the more seasoned Saints would eventually break the will and the spirit of the young Hawks without their Captain Sicily. Looks can be deceiving, though.

Hawthorn’s first four goals all came from their youngsters, with Connor McDonald, the impressive Nick Watson, Lloyd Meek, a ruckman with a huge future in front of him, and captain for the day, Dylan Moore, giving the Hawks a healthy start.

It was an entertaining first stanza that saw the Hawks holding a four-point lead (4.1.25 to 3.3.21), mainly due to the Hawks being accurate in front of goal.


The Second Quarter

Early goals to stand-in captain, Dylan Moore, and the Dick Dastardly of the AFL, Jack Ginnivan, basically set the Hawks for the rest of the match as they jumped out to a match high 15-point lead.

Ginnivan’s goal was answered shortly afterwards by Mitch Owens at the 12-minute of the quarter, and it looked like game-on. As I said, looks can be deceiving.

Apart from another point by the Hawks, that was basically it for the quarter as the game degenerated into a pitch battle played between the arcs. Dour, low scoring footy can be good to watch, but it should not be confused by sloppy, error footy, with rolling scrums and constant stops in play.

At half-time the Hawks held sway 6.2.38 to the Saints 4.4.28.


The Third Quarter

A Changing Trend in the Game – Defensive 50 Slingshot Footy

On Friday night I witnessed, and not for the first time this year, the Swans hold the ball up in the oppositions forward line, conceding multiple forward entries, but having the skill and desire to keep the ball in defence until they know they are free to slingshot the ball forward and maximise their forward entries. To be successful at this style of game, a team must be able to bring the ball to ground and be ruthless when attacking the opposition when they have the ball until the time is right for the runners to kill the opposition on the rebound.

Kudos to Sam Mitchell and his coaching staff for successfully pulling off the slingshot tactic in the third quarter today. At times it wasn’t pretty, and some mistakes were made, but it proved to be very decisive.

Blake Hardwick, Jack Scrimshaw, Sam Frost, Cam McKenzie, and Josh Weddle applied the defensive pressure necessary for the slingshot to work, as St Kilda kept bombing the ball into their forward line. Membrey, King, Wood, and co were made to work overtime for every possession.

Hawthorn’s applied back pressure created uncertainty in the Saints’ forward line and they were only able to kick 1.5 for the quarter from 18 forward entries. Bad kicking is bad forward, but the Saints forwards were fatigued by the continuous pressure, and even when they had set shots, they seemed rattled.

For the defensive slingshot to work then the forward thrusts on the rebound must reap results. Midway through the third quarter, Worpel, Impey, Newcombe, and Day started running the ball and linking the ball to the likes of Karl Amon, Connor Nash, Messimo D’Ambrosio who delivered the ball to their own forward line, and their work up the field was finished with class goals to Nick Watson and Luke Breust.

Karl Amon is an underrated player, but the one true highlight of this match was his pass under pressure to find Luke Breust at the 25-minute mark of the quarter, who goaled – it was sublime.

Hawthorn won the third quarter kicking 2.4 from 10 forward entries to the Saints 1.5 from 18 forward entries.

Mitchell outcoached Lyon when the game needed to be won.


The Last Quarter – It was, well it just was!

If you had told me Luke Breust’s goal in the third quarter would be the winning goal I think I would have turned the telly off – lucky I didn’t know.

The following 30 seconds of play early the final quarter sums the whole of the last quarter, Dylan Moore has a set opportunity from 40 metres out and doesn’t make the distance, Rowan Marshall marks on the goal line for the Saints, shanks his kick straight into the arms of Ginnivan 20 metres from goal, and then true to the script Ginnivan sprays his shot at goal and kicks a point.

Both clubs were totally cooked in the last quarter, and at times the play looked like it was in slow-motion. The winner would be the team which was less fatigued, or the one that made less mistakes and capitalised on their opportunities.

A goal to Max King at the 18-minute mark of the last quarter breathed scoreboard pressure into this game as the game tightened to under a goal. A minutes later King tried a scissor kick in the goal square which, if it had of been successful, it would have been a candidate for goal of the year, but it missed.


When Will Max King Believe in Himself?

With seconds left on the scoreboard the ball was rebounding everywhere as the Hawks tried to hold on and the Saints tried to snatch victory. It wasn’t pretty, but the dying moments deserved something special.

Max King led up perfectly to kick into the forward line with seconds remaining and grabbed the ball cleanly, however, in the process he somehow dropped the mark on the way down. Make no mistake, he should have held onto that mark.

Great players want to be THE PLAYER when the game is on the line. Max King had the opportunity to be THE PLAYER today, but he fluffed his lines. Carey, Lockett, Lloyd, Hird, Martin, Elliott, Nick Davis, and even last week, Nick Daicos, they all play/ed and live/d for moments like this – it is there adrenaline rush they need as stars of the game.

Max King had a quiet day, but he was gifted the moment, and not for the first time in his career he has let the moment pass. King has played enough games now to the PLAYER St Kilda need, but everybody keeps talking about his potential, or the day he tears a game apart, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

Harping back to the 1971 Grand Final, John Keddie was also having a quiet day, but when Kanga gave him the chance in the last quarter to be THE MAN, he wrote himself into Hawthorn folklore. King had the chance to be the difference today, and it makes me question whether he is the rising star or is just a good ordinary player (thanks, Jack Dyer).


Hawthorn will never again get away with closing down a game at Three Quarter time.

Hawthorn won this game in the third quarter by applying great defensive pressure on the Saints, but their lead was not enough to believe they had won the game. Hawthorn dodged a bullet today by trying to play whole quarter of football as if there was only two minutes left on the clock.

Rowan Marshall and Jack Steele nearly lifted the Saints over the line with their effort and endeavour in the last quarter. Marshall, who had a great battle with Lloyd Meek all day, had 23 contested possessions for the match, while Jack Steele started to feed of his effort in the final stanza. The problem was, they were basically doing it on their own. Newcombe, Scrimshaw, Moore, Meeks and others, still had enough petrol left in the tanks to defensively hold off an unlikely Saints win.

Sam Mitchell would well understand not scoring a goal in the last quarter of any game normally equals defeat, but by a combination of grit and resilience by his senior players they dodged a huge bullet.

Ross Lyon would be fuming that his team, with all the forward momentum in the last quarter could only kick one goal.


Hawthorn v St Kilda – Which Club is Closer?

Hawthorn is improving week by week. Just over a month ago I covered a Hawthorn match and I questioned nearly everything about the club as, at that point, I couldn’t see the future. A few weeks later the Hawks seem to be heading in the right direction.

Time will be the judge of Sam Mitchell’s approach to coaching, and while he has the defensive side of his side starting to show promise, a lot of work is still required on his offensive approach to the game.

2027 and beyond would be Mitchell’s and Hawthorn’s long-term objective to getting back amongst it. While it seems a long way off, the Hawks still have time to maintain their their record of winning a Premiership in each decade since the 1960’s.

St Kilda, St Kilda, St Kilda, translated means, Quando, Quando, Quando, or, When, When, When?

Matthew Lloyd was adamant a few years back that if Essendon snuck into the finals, it may be more of a negative than a positive. In other words, it raises false hopes and expectations. Possibly the same could be said about St Kilda’s unexpected finals foray last season.

I have seen a bit of St Kilda this year and it seems like they are back where they first started when Ross Lyon took over – a mid-table team stuck in AFL purgatory.

The time is nigh for Ross to make the hard decisions on a few players who have been good servants of the Saints. It may mean some very harsh decisions being made about players who are popular both within the playing group and the fanbase. I am not going to name names just yet.

At Round Nine, any chance the Saints have of making the finals has all but diminished and a Dimma (2016) or Thompson (2006) approach to coaching needs to be taken. In other words, take the haircut this year and prepare for 2025 with no passengers.

Last year proved the Saints are capable (even if it was a false economy), while this year highlights the changes need to be made to rise out of purgatory.

I don’t doubt Lyon’s ability to give it one hell of a shake.

At present, neither club is close to another Premiership, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some possibilty of growth and success in the years to come.


Next Round

Hawthorn travel to Adelaide to play the inform Power, while St Kilda hosts the improving, but inconsistent Dockers at Marvel.