Hawthorn v Essendon - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Old rivals butted heads once more, and Essendon’s season continued to spiral downward at the hands of Hawthorn.

A tight first half made way for the usual Essendon third quarter fade out, and allowed the Hawks to run out comfortable 23 point winners.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

James Sicily

It’s feast or famine with Sicily. Either he is pushing for best on ground, or getting himself suspended. Today, it was the former.

His ability to read the ball, use his body and demonstrate clean hands both in the air and at ground level make him an absolute nightmare if not manned up. This kind of game from Sicily is exactly why Carlton decided to target him last year. You need to make him think about something else, because if his head is in the game, he has the ability to dominate.

In stark contrast to his counterpart, Michael Hurley, Sicily’s disposals hurt Essendon. I found that Hurley seemed to be under pressure all the time, and made hurried, and sometimes panicked decisions, whereas Sicily looked comfortable. He made the play. Hurley responded to the play.

Before the game commenced I thought it may come down to which key defensive player was able to play his role best – Hurley or Sicily. I think we found our answer. I wonder whether this game will be taken into account when the All-Australian selectors sit and start discussing their selections later in the year?

Sicily had 29 disposals and 14 marks in a sublime display across half back, and don’t forget about his crunching goal on the one occasion he crept forward.

The Mullets.

I loved what I saw today from the mulleted Hawthorn pair of Blake Hardwick and Ben Stratton. They were resolute in defence and added additional pressure around any contests where Frawley was forced to deal with Daniher.

Their stats don't tell the story of their influence today. Their combined defensive efforts controlled the contests inside Essendon's forward 50, and these two terribly-groomed defenders were two of the most important players on the ground

Jarryd Roughead

Three goals for Rough and seven marks – they’re not exactly the greatest stats you’ll ever see, but there are a lot of things he did today that won’t show up on a stat sheet. I haven’t seen Rough work this hard all year. He was good late against the Cats, but today was a four quarter effort.

His effort to make the contest in the second quarter led directly to a goal. He really had no right to have an impact. He was being shepherded out of the play, continued to push towards the marking contest and caused the ball to spill. The Hawks then crumbed it, and as Brendon Goddard stood and watched Roughead, he continued to run, and got on the end of it. A goal resulted – a well-earned goal.

I didn’t see any Essendon players telling Goddard to find a man after Roughead kicked that goal, but they’d be more than entitled to.

Tom Bellchambers' first half

I thought McEvoy fought back well in the second half, but the well-rested Bellchambers was an absolute beast in the first half. At half time, he had six contested marks to his name, and looked very dangerous both close to goal and around the ground.

He had 20 touches and 8 marks to be amongst Essendon’s best, but didn’t take a contested grab after half time.

Tom Mitchell v Dyson Heppell

Many were critical of Heppell’s performance against Melbourne, and he needed to respond. What better way than to curtail the game’s elite midfielder?

Mitchell and Heppell went head to head most of the day and I think if we called it a draw between them, it’d be a fair assessment. 29 touches and ten tackles for Mitchell. 28 touches and six marks for Heppell.

Mitchell was still amazing at the contest, amassing 18 contested touches, but Heppell did a good job in limiting his role as a link in the Hawthorn handball chain. If there was one thing that let Heppell down, it was his inability to hit a target by foot. In the first quarter alone he had two direct turnovers as a result of poor foot skills.

THE BAD

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti

OK, I am officially off the Tippa Train. He looks like he is lost out there at times. His teammates have done him no favours, but in terms of forward pressure, he just doesn’t do enough. Of anything!

He finished the game with seven touches – the second time this season where he’s gone completely missing. If he’s going to play this role, there’ll be games where he can’t get into it offensively. It's those days he needs to do it defensively.

His stats for the day; seven touches, two tackles, 0 contested possessions and 0 inside 50s. Three touches to half time – yuck.

Jake Stringer

And if you thought Walla was bad, here’s Jake Stringer to make him look like a world beater.

At quarter time one of the commentators mentioned his name, and I seriously did not even know he was playing. Apparently he’d had a handball at this stage. It must’ve been a quick one, because I sure didn’t notice it.

I said Sicily was feast or famine, but Stringer appears to be a light snack for someone deliberately watching their weight, or famine. He is not fulfilling the role Essendon recruited him for, and worse than that, he has the terrible body language that makes him look like he doesn’t give a rat’s backside at times.

He’s great at appealing for non-existent free kicks, and applies moderate pressure, but he was a complete waste of space today in the Bombers’ forward half.

Third quarter Bomb-outs

This has now become a problem. Hawthorn attacked the third quarter like a team that smelled blood. Essendon attacked it like one of those possums that pretends it’s dead to deter predators.

The Hawks pushed and the Bombers just didn’t push back. They were weak, timid and provided no indication that they wanted to make a stand in the ‘premiership quarter’. They scored one behind for the whole quarter – it’s in their heads now.

THE UGLY

Joe Daniher

You knew this was coming, and I don’t even want to write it. You see, I think Joe Daniher could STILL be the best forward in the game. I really do. He is such a hard match up, and if he gets a run at the ball, he is almost impossible to spoil.

Then if he can do all that, why isn’t he?

I wish I knew the answer, but there’s no sign that he’s going to have a breakout game. If anyone provides the platform for a mobile big man to run into some form, it’s James Frawley. Instead, we have Joe with one goal to his name, and Frawley smiling from ear to ear.

He took a beautiful one-handed grab in the last quarter, and attacked the body of Roughead in a marking contest that made Jon Brown wet himself a little, but on the whole, it was yet another disappointing outing from Daniher.

Bomber fans must be tearing their hair out.

Tommy Mitchell and the goal that wasn’t

Yes, I worked in a Harry Potter reference. My daughter will love it. It was pretty clear to me that Tom Mitchell kicked a goal after the siren at the end of the second quarter. Painfully obvious, actually.

With reviews for points, and touched balls (hee hee), and the ball shaving the post, why couldn’t they review this and get it right?

Was it pivotal? I want to say no, but maybe it was. The Bombers had a shocking third quarter, but this would’ve made that gap just a little smaller. They did get within three goals in the last quarter – who knows how this botched decision changes the game?

 

OTHER BITS

Loved Zach Merrett’s kick to half forward in the first quarter, finding his man despite Roughead slamming into him. Merrett didn’t get the regular kind of numbers today – 17 touches.

Hawthorn inside 50 pressure was elite, and it caused a lot of little fumbles. One such fumble from Hurley allowed a centring ball to be marked by O’Meara 20 metres out, which he converted.

Alarm bells started going off half way through the first for me when Mitchell and Shiels waltzed through the centre of the ground, and the ball ended with Gunston. He missed the shot, but it looked a little too easy.

With the ‘experts’ discussing the drop off in skills, it’s amazing how the skilful players are still able to execute. Goddard’s kick to the leading Stewart was picture-perfect in the first. As soon as it left his boot, you knew it was hitting the target. You just can’t give Goddard time and space. If I had the choice, I’d allow Hurley to play behind the ball before I allowed Goddard.

Bellchambers’ tap to Devon Smith was a thing of beauty. Pity he couldn’t convert – it deserved better.

Loved Luke Breust’s one handed contested mark. Hated that he had to give the kick to someone else due to a trickle of blood.

I was a bit dumbfounded as to how Stewart was able to get 10 metres clear in the Essendon forward line with the ball in dispute around 50 out. Both Sicily and Howe were kind of in no-man’s land between the contest and Stewart. His goal was a reminder to man-up.

Patrick Ambrose’s goal from outside 50 is the sort of thing that should ignite a team.

OK, a little bit about Adam Saad. There a saying in basketball – leapers want to leap. Players say that as a way of teaching teammates to use their fakes. The leaper will leap to block the shot at every chance so let them jump and capitalise on their eagerness. We can apply that to Saad. Runners want to run. When he gets it, opposition teams are now waiting for him to take off. They’re sweating on him, and they corral him and allow him to run himself into trouble. Saad needs to work with stuff out – he was excellent early against Breust, but he really lost his way as the game went on.

Bombers’ forward structures, inasmuch as who leads up to the wing needs real work. Several times, mids and backs were forced to turn around and go backwards because there was literally nobody to kick to forward.

Hurley was pretty hard up to be pinged for a holding free kick against Tim O’Brien. Both were holding – Hurley was just stronger.

Speaking of O’Brien, if he can clunk a few marks, what a player he’ll be! He already pressures well, and makes second and third efforts, but he has a bit of the Danihers about him in the air. Needs the confidence. Neither he nor Joe have it currently.

Another big first half for Andy McGrath, with 17 at half time. Finished with 27. Second week in a row he has had a big first half and an ordinary second half. Endurance issues?

Loved the composure of Roughead after he moved into the middle. Read a tap from the ruck and waltzed through 3-4 opposition players before handing off. Reeked of class.

Mutch may have kicked the goal out of the air, but Daniher was there too. My thoughts – why was Tom Mitchell isolated on Daniher as the ball was bombed in? Mitchell did well, and it ended well for the Bombers anyway, but that should not have happened.

The third quarter blues were emphasised in the Bombers defensive 50 in the third. 8-9 disposals went absolutely nowhere and just seemed to put a teammate under increasing pressure. Credit the Hawks’ tackling and attack on the man, but the Bombers looked like they were going up and down on the one spot. Goddard got run down by Gunston and the Hawks goaled.

Stringer is so strong through the hips. He stood up in a tackle in the third, spun around and hacked it towards goal, but Burgoyne, who was good without being overly involved, marked it and sent the Hawks on their way.

The Bombers fans actually started cheering whenever their players kicked the ball long. Problem with that was that the Hawks were sitting and waiting for it. What were they cheering for? The Hawthorn marks?

Loved Sicily trying to get Daniher to give him a high five after his long goal. Joe wasn’t into it.

Breust really started to impose himself on the game in the second half. Still only finished with one, but he was very good in contests, and his delivery inside 50 was excellent.

Despite being outplayed, the three straight goals to Essendon in the last quarter actually opened the door. They were starting to press. Shiel’s goal from the Breust pass killed the contest.

Baguley tried the fend off on young Harry Morrison. Mistake. Holding the ball.

In contrast, Breust’s fend off on Hurley was a cracker. Probably too high, actually, but the ball was already out of bounds.

McDonald-Tipungwuti’s late mark and goal made his stats seem like he had an influence – he didn’t.

 

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