The West Coast Eagles made it nine wins on the trot, and did it in Melbourne, which of course does not need to be understated. Wins on the road are all but guaranteeing the Eagles a top four berth in 2018.
This time, they ground out a good win against Hawthorn, who look to be a different team to the one who got big wins earlier in the year against Melbourne, Geelong and Essendon.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
I know a lot of people will look at the stats and see Rioli kicked two goals and think he must’ve done OK. He did more than OK – he was the most dangerous player on the ground today. Not Kennedy, not Darling – Willie Rioli.
Sure, he gave away a silly 50 metre penalty to Blake Hardwick that resulted in his first ever AFL goal, but of all players on the ground, Rioli was the one who looked the most threatening whenever he went near the ball.
Stats say one thing – the eye-test says another. And really, the touching Of Ray Chamberlain would gave to be deemed unintentional, right? No one would intentionally touch him... ewww.
This guy continually slips under the guard of those who analyse the game. He is unsung, he is no-nonsense, and he is rarely beaten.
Today, he had the job of reducing the influence of Luke Breust, who is arguably the All Australian small forward at the moment. He held Breust goalless whilst Sheppard went about his business collecting 20 disposals.
While McGovern, and Gaff, and Darling, and Kennedy, and so on get all the plaudits, spare a thought for Brad Sheppard – perhaps the most underrated defender in the league. I reckon he may like it that way.
Memo to West Coast – I don’t care whether you pay him under the table, give his parents a new boat, pay for his kids’ uni fees in 20 years… do what you can to secure this man’s signature and keep him at your club!
Gaff was superb today. I was looking at the contest and thought whomever out of Gaff and Isaac Smith has the most influence will go a long way to giving their team the edge. Gaff was the man, and not just by a little bit. He led all in disposals with 35, and ran at 80& efficiency, whilst collecting 12 marks by getting out into space.
Every team in the league would love his running ability. Keep him, West Coast; whatever it costs.
If there’s one thing Hawthorn can rely on, it’s that Liam Shiels will go about his business, and do a good job of it. Shiels was the Hawks’ best midfielder. Whilst they wait for Tom Mitchell to hit some targets, and Jaeger O’Meara to fulfil his potential, someone has to do the dirty work.
That someone is Liam Shiels.
He had 10 contested possessions and six clearances among his 29 touches, but I’ve always admired his tackling. He added another seven today.
You had to wonder whether Blake Hardwick was the right choice to take the number 15 guernsey when Luke Hodge left the club. Hodge would be proud of his performance today.
The stats say he had only 18 touches and seven marks, but his willingness to put his body on the line at crucial moments kept the Hawks in the hunt. It was great to see him dob his first goal. I wonder where the Hawks would’ve been without him today?
Even in a loss, you always look for a positive, and the return to form today of Ryan Burton would be a relief for Hawthorn fans.
After a very solid year last year, his form had fallen away this season. North fans had started thinking that they’d got the better of the deal that saw Jed Anderson head to Arden Street for the pick that would become Burton. Today’s performance would give some hope that he is the same player he was.
The Masten celebration
It’s wonderful to see emotion, or even a genuine reaction from players so well-drilled in how to celebrate.
Famous NFL coach, Vince Lombardi said “Act like you’ve been there before” to his players after they scored a touchdown. He wanted to downplay the achievement and give the sense it was all in a day’s work for his players.
Masten hadn’t been there before, and his reaction proved it. I loved it.
McEvoy on NicNat
I haven’t seen a Naitanui performance quite so subdued as the one he had today. He looked at his best in the rare moments that he was matched up against Jonathon Ceglar, but against McEvoy, it seemed as though he was a little flat.
Credit McEvoy with the nous of blocking Nic Nat’s run and forcing him to body-up against him. McEvoy was no world-beater today, but he was not trounced by Naitanui at all. Still, Naitanui was good at ground level, providing the contests and laying the tackles we’ve come to expect from him.
Truth be told, I really liked the game of Scott Lycett. Very solid as a backup today.
The world is slowly waking up and realising there is this bloke in Western Australia who is turning into a special player.
You’d think that the Best and Fairest award from last year may have clued them in a little, but it seems not. It took his best on ground against Richmond for people to sit up and take notice. Well, he was great again today. His mark against Ricky Henderson in the second quarter, when it looked as though the Hawk had prime position to effectively spoil was classic Yeo.
Yeo had 16 contested touches amongst his 28 disposals for the day, but what grabs your attention is the poise when he feels someone trying to tackle him, and he stands up, allows the tackle to fall away, and then goes on his merry way. Quickly becoming one of my favourites, he is the sort of player who is first-picked because you know what you’re gonna get from him.
One hundred percent effort, every time.
The Mitchell disposal
Now, this is not a cheap shot at Mitchell, as he wins so much hard ball, and so many of his touches come under pressure. Still, a few times today, he just threw the ball on the boot without looking and it went straight to an Eagles player.
Whether it was implied pressure, actual pressure, or just a bit of throwing it on the boot is a moot point – if you’re going to be the engine room for a team that badly needs an in-and-under midfielder, then you’re gonna have to do it well.
No votes for Mitch this week., despite him working very diligently on the defensive end.
The Hawks half forward problem
So if you’re going to bomb the ball into the forward line, you’d be expecting someone to be able to clunk a mark, right?
Who can do that for Hawthorn at the moment?
Roughead? Nope – he gets worked under the ball far too often for my liking. He is a great mark of the ball out in front, and today he consistently ran under it and tried to reach back to be involved. He was nowhere near it in terms of marks inside 50.
Jonathon Ceglar? If he’s the answer, I don’t like the question. He had a horrible first 20 minutes of the game, and was -4 in player rankings until he marked and goaled thanks to Jarman Impey’s run. He took two grabs for the game.
Mitchell Lewis? Nuh-uh. Not yet, anyway. Needs time to develop, and is nowhere near ready to be contesting and taking marks inside forward 50. He had one mark today.
Tim O’Brien? He’s currently spending time at Box Hill, and for good reason. Could not buy a mark earlier in the year.
So who’s left? Are the Hawks willing to throw James Sicily forward to ignite their stagnant half forward line? They may have to do something. Doing nothing is getting them nowhere.
James Sicily started really well on Jack Darling when darling moved up the ground. Stratton took over the defensive duties when darling rolled deep forward.
At one point in the first quarter, Kennedy, darling and LeCras were all linking up through the middle of the ground. No one was forward.
Clanger of epic proportions by Isaac Smith allowed Jake Waterman to sky and deliver the ball to Willie Rioli. Huge error by Smith.
Jamie Cripps snapped a nice goal,. And was able to manoeuvre out of a Dave Mirra tackle. Gotta stick them at this level, Dave.
Loved Kennedy’s decision to centre the ball to Waterman rather than have a snap at goal. Cool head, quick decision and unselfish.
Jack Darling’s big contested mark was a pearler, but the quick handball to Kennedy showed just how the Eagles work. He gave away an 85% chance at goal to give Kennedy a 100% chance.
Jack Redden is the kind of player whose improvement elevates a team from very good to excellent, and that’s what he’s doing for the Eagles this season. His run down tackle on Impey early in the second was great.
Great to see the umpires NOT pay a free kick to Puopolo for leaning into a tackle and lowering to allow it to slip high. Play on!
Rioli’s snap for goal was excellent under pressure, but how good was Waterman’s shepherd on the line?
Good goal review to change the Gunston goal to a behind.
I don’t know why Kennedy was holding James Frawley in a marking contest on the wing. Frawley is barely a threat to mark at the best of times…
Rioli’s mark as the Eagles exited defensive 50 was excellent, and allowed Darling to get his first touch of the second quarter. The ball went to Cripps and he found LeCras for the goal. Some may forget, but without Rioli, that ball goes straight back into the Hawks ‘ attacking zone. They were applying good pressure at that point.
Yeo breaking the O’Meara tackle and surging forward to start the third quarter is indicative of where both players are at right now. O’Meara may have snuck forward for three goals (missed an easy one early – should have been four) but Yeo is a beast.
Beautiful mark by Roughead with one hand at half forward in a direct match up with McGovern. Not sure how many blokes take one-handers against Gov. Not many, I’d wager.
This game really turned into each team backing their own skills at points. Ultimately, the Eagles’ ability to hit targets continually saw them on top.
James Sicily spoiling the marking attempt of Jon Ceglar was appalling defensive play. No talk.
For the first time this season I questioned whether Dave Mirra belongs in the Hawthorn side. Completely outclassed in a marking contest in the third, and then a horrid turnover by foot are the sort of things that start to add up.
Great defensive mark by McGovern to end the third quarter.
First goal of the last quarter was always going to be vital. Enter Nic Naitanui. McEvoy sagged off him here, and Nat made him pay. Hardwick couldn’t compete in the air and Naitanui marked and goaled from 35 out.
Sometimes it isn’t skill and deft foot skills that propel the Eagles forward. Early in the last, they moved the ball 50 metres toward their goal with defensive pressure, constantly moving the Hawks back and knocking the ball on. Great play without having to take possession.
This was an excellent win for the Eagles. Three trips to Melbourne this season for three wins. If anyone doubted them early, I’m guessing they’re either backtracking or apologising right about now.