R11 – Hawthorn v Brisbane – Sunday Scrutiny


Hawthorn v Brisbane in a Sunday arvo slot at Marvel. Compulsory viewing for any sane footy fan.

A battle of two teams who’ve generally spent the last few years anchored at opposite ends of the ladder, despite Hawthorn’s implausible win streak in the fixture dating back to 2020. In 2024 terms, the two have drifted ever-closer together, as Brisbane’s premiership window seemingly closes inch-by-inch, whilst Hawthorn slowly build the foundations of a formidable side. And that trend was set to continue, with Hawthorn 25 points to the goods at the final siren. Let’s see what unfolded.


First quarter shenanigans

The first quarter took a little while to get going as each team struggled really to string a clean passage together, but once they did, there was plenty of entertainment. A cluster of three Dayne Zorko infringements (leading to two Hawks goals) provided much joy for the Hawks fans, and if we’re being honest, plenty of neutral fans that aren’t huge fans of Zorko’s in the first place.

In Dayne’s defenc, though, he probably was assessed a little harshly on at least two of them. Jack Ginnivan was at the centre of things in the first one, pulling his trademark arm lift to make the tackle slip high. Personally, I’m of the belief that if the ball carrier manipulates a tackle that would otherwise be fair in order to get high contact, it should be play on, not to mention that discouraging such play would probably act as a concussion safeguard, but that approach is probably too full of common sense for the league to consider.

The second one was a little more unforgivable, with a time-wasting 50m penalty awarded against Zorko, and the third one was an iffy high call made when he tackled Connor MacDonald, who led with his head. It felt to me like the umps were perhaps taking out years’ worth of animosity on Zorko, and based on what we know about his history and personality, maybe it wasn’t unjustified. Overall though, I would prefer to see those high tackles not called, and to their credit, the umps did a pretty solid job thereafter of letting the game flow and only calling obvious infringements, barring two incorrect non-holding-the-ball calls which quirkily resulted in a goal for each team.


Ball movement

Hawthorn’s ball movement was brave and daring from the outset, in keeping with their general style of play over the year, save for a quarter last week which I may make reference to later. Sure, there were errors, and there were some exceptional defensive efforts from the Brisbane players once they realised that the numbers on the scoreboard do not just increase in automatic increments, but by and large it was an exhibition of courage and pace from a side determined to move into the (rather densely populated at the minute) weight class of top eight contenders.

Handballs were received at full pelt and eyes were lowered going inside 50 as the momentum-drunk Hawks piled the scoreboard pressure on their opponents at various stages throughout the game. Sam Mitchell’s had some stumbles in his short tenure, but the ethos of the team is abundantly clear, and he has his troops executing a gameplan that is extremely effective, and one that should be entirely sustainable provided it’s backed up with the necessary endurance power. Which, at the moment, it is.

Something I deem worthy of mention here is James Sicily and his scything 45+m passes, which led to at least three goals for his team (including two in the all-important final quarter) and need to be seen to be believed. I can’t speak for others, but when I saw him do that Gryan Miers-esque twist to the right and kick across his body away from the packs, I was utterly baffled as to where he was kicking it to, until I realised that there was a bloke in Hawks stripes just out of the frame. Yep, he was kicking it to a guy that the fairly expansive TV coverage span didn’t pick up.

That’s true vision right there.

He remains the Hawks’ most important player by the length of a Centrelink hold time. I’d love to have been on his basketball team, if he ever had one.


Are you aware of what guernsey you’re wearing?

Aside from the aforementioned Zorko behaviour, there were a couple of other offenders throughout the game who had periods in which it appeared they were assisting their opponents more than their own team. Jack Scrimshaw had a pretty torrid time of it in the second half, with a couple of cringe-inducing turnovers in dangerous positions, as well as a free kick infringement which gave Charlie Cameron a shot on goal, and a lack of situational awareness which resulted in a turnover and fast break for Brisbane. He probably won’t be getting a hug from and an invite to dinner with coach Mitchell and wife, but overall I’d probably still rate his game at an ‘average’ level, as he executed a couple of crucial tactical delays when Brisbane were pushing, taking his opponent to the ground in order to give his teammates time to get back. It was smart play, even if his on-ball contributions left something to be desired.

Another unfortunate recipient of my ire here is Brisbane’s sub, Harry Sharp, brought on in the last quarter. His main two contributions in the final quarter both involved getting caught with the ball in the corridor, basically footy’s number one cardinal sin. Both of these moments sapped any momentum which his team had been able to muster, and one allowed Hawthorn to land the knockout blow.


Yin, yang, and back to yin again

Brisbane’s defensive pressure was extremely strange in this game. Throughout basically the entire first half, it was rubbish, and they visibly looked like they’d have preferred to have been at home playing Xbox in a dark air-conditioned room (an activity which I also prefer to exercising, in fairness). Hawthorn had their way out of the centre and weren’t really being restricted in their movement. Then a switch flicked at half time, and Brisbane came out meaning business.

The pressure gauge popped up on the screen during the third term and showed the Lions at the high end of the elite pressure measurement. It certainly checked out, given the tackling, harrying and corralling that was on display. Suddenly Hawthorn didn’t have anywhere to go, and when Brisbane got within a kick after being five goals down, it looked like a reward for a quarter’s worth of the effort expected of them was at their fingertips.

Just like that, however, the pressure dropped off again, and whilst Hawthorn, not to downplay them, were dogged in defending their lead, and wrested back some momentum with a late third-quarter Gunston goal, the mental shift that seemingly occurred amongst the Lions would be worrying for Brisbane fans. Once more, the Lions looked second-rate on defence, and Hawthorn began to scythe through them again. Their back six, which generally defended gamely given the forward thrusts they faced, didn’t have a hope.

All year, Brisbane have not seemed willing to go completely all-in with their effort and to leave absolutely nothing in the tank, and that’s the way it appeared in this one too, save for that third-quarter spate. They’ve got an issue on their hands.


Roamin’ Lohmann

Kai Lohmann is one who’s become a mainstay of the Lions 22 over the last 12 months, and, it was easy to see why. In the third quarter, he was the one who delivered the scoreboard rewards for his team with two goals, a behind, and several examples of shrewd forward craft. For both of his goals, he managed to slink into his forward 50 unmarked and undetected, and his teammates didn’t let him down with their passes. But for a couple of misfired snaps, he could’ve had four goals, and could’ve had a more significant influence on the result than what he did. Intelligence in this league seems to be vastly underrated by recruiters. Sure, you need a base level of athleticism, power, endurance etc., but more often than not, in tight and tense tussles, it’s intelligence that makes the difference rather than physical brilliance. He with his keen footy brain is definitely one to watch.


Day v Neale

It wasn’t much of a head-to-head battle but it was compelling viewing, all the same. Will Day and Lachie Neale were a class above their respective teammates in the midfield. Day, in particular, seems to glide across the turf with the ball despite his oddly giraffe-like proportions. Newcombe generally receives the plaudits (I’m aware of Day’s B&F win, but think of the Hawks’ midfield and you immediately think of Newcombe) but Day’s clearly above him, for mine. If he stays healthy, and that’s an ‘if’ the size of the Milky Way (constellation, not the chocolate), he’ll do bloody well in Brownlows and likely help his team push deep into September.

As for Neale, he did what Neale does. That little shake of the hips makes him untackle-able even though he looks like you should be able to knock him down with a Whack-A-Mole hammer. His 29 touches were good value, particularly his handballs, and he needs help from some of his high-profile teammates if this train-wreck Brisbane season is to be salvaged in any capacity whatsoever.


Mistakes learned from and banished

Last week, Sam Mitchell managed to orchestrate a loss from an unlose-able position against Port Adelaide, inexplicably changing his team’s tactics, which had worked a treat to that point, to an ultra-defensive, dour park-the-bus strategy. I’m not sure if he identified that his players were exhausted and couldn’t continue on attacking the way they were in that game, but there was no self-preservation in this one. Sure, it’s not like the Hawks were far enough ahead that parking the bus would really be a viable strategy anyway, but the one thing that strikes me about this Hawks team is that they thrive on momentum. When they have it, they play run-and-gun footy, scoring flurries of goals before their opponents can blink.

It’s a style of play that has troubled multiple top four contenders already. The pleasing thing about this game from a Hawks point of view is that they kept attacking right till the very end, with a Breust holding-the-ball free and goal on the final siren. They gained momentum and they kept it. It was a spectacularly foolish blunder from Mitchell to take that intangible drawcard away from his team last week, and whilst he’s probably forgotten more about footy than I’ll ever know, I know strengths when I see them. This Hawthorn team loves it when they’re getting the ball out of the clearance, when they’re moving it forward at pace. And that should be maximised, not minimised.


And that’s all I’ve got for today.

Hawks 15.10.100-Lions 10.15.75.

A game that exemplified the rise-and-fall nature of footy, with each team looking to change tiers from where footy fans have generally placed them over the last few years. Grave concerns for Brisbane, nothing but optimism for Hawthorn, even if the overall quality of their list still worries me a bit. Then again, though, some would say that I, a North fan, being worried about someone else’s list, is the pinnacle of irony.
At any rate, in terms of the rebuild process, the Hawks have laid the foundation, installed the frame, windows and doors, and are just checking whether the plumbing is deficient. Not a bad position to be in. Not a bad position at all.