Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs - The Good, Bad and Ugly

In what was a close game until half time, the Hawks dropped the hammer on the Bulldogs in the second half to run out winners by 63 points, gaining some valuable percentage in the process.

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

THE GOOD

Luke Breust

This was basically the perfect game from a small forward. I was so hoping he’d get one more and set a new career-high for goals, but he was very unselfish down the stretch, and worked hard to ensure his teammates remained involved.

His first quarter was beastly, adding four goals to his name and providing a target for the Hawthorn mids, but it was the front and centre positioning for his sixth goal that was most impressive. Roughead made the contest and Breust hit the spill at pace, slicing through and snapping a great goal.

One of our pet stats at The Mongrel Punt revolves around the high watermark for the small forwards – 50 goals and 100 tackles in a season. No one has ever achieved this stat at AFL level. Hard to believe, huh?

Breust now sits at 36 goals and 72 tackles for the season. Over the next seven games, he needs two goals and four tackles per game. Get on board… this could be history, and Breust will be the first and only member of the 50/100 club.

Jaeger O’Meara

He must get sick to death of people asking how his body is holding up – he has missed one game all year and was amongst the Hawks best tonight. It must be feeling pretty bloody good!

He ran at 82% efficiency for his 28 touches, and added eight clearances and two direct goal assists to his night.

Though he's had a quieter game here or there over the journey, O’Meara is working his way towards the pointy end of the season nicely. He’s never played in an AFL final, and is desperate for some team success after some barren years on the Gold Coast. His performance over the next few weeks will be integral to how far Hawthorn gets this year.

Ben Stratton

You hear plenty of people talk about Rance, Jonas and Harris Andrews as the better defenders in the league, but Stratton’s performance tonight was second to none.

If you’re talking stats, he’ll be glossed over. Nine touches and five contested disposals amongst them won’t be winning him any Brownlows, but his timing tonight, and his ability to read the ball in flight to make perfect contact with it, was masterful deep in defence.

His spoil on Mitch Wallis to begin the last quarter should be shown to all aspiring defenders.

Daniel Howe

He was out of the side earlier in the season, and Hawthorn supporters were lamenting the fact that one of the most accountable players in the side wasn’t getting a game. It was games like tonight that caused them to voice their concerns when he was back in the VFL.

Howe spent a lot of time on the bench in the last quarter after appearing to tweak a knee in a marking contest with Bontempelli late in the second, but prior to that, he was the master of the Bulldog star. He collected 25 touches at 85% efficiency, had eight marks and six tackles as he worked Bont completely out of the game.

It must have infuriated him to see Bont get some cheap stats late in the game to bolster his numbers, but anyone who watched the game knows the influence Howe had on this game, and on his direct match up.

Harry Morrison

Just as Howe shut down Bont, Morrison was given a job to do at half time, and not only did he do that job well, he became an important part of the Hawthorn offensive domination.

Morrison had only 12 disposals for the game, but it was not his offensive skills that we’re loving the most. He completely shut down Jason Johannisen in the second half, and exposed him as someone who doesn’t like to defend much himself.

Morrison snuck forward with a goal, and was also pivotal in a couple of Hawthorn forward thrusts in the third quarter. On each occasion, JJ was nowhere to be seen.

Jason Johannisen’s first half

Yeah, he deserves the whack for drifting out of the game, but he was probably THE reason the Bulldogs were in front at half time.

25 touches in a half is something that doesn’t happen often. 25 touches at 100% efficiency is all the more rare. We’ll get to JJ’s second half in a minute, but his first half was a reminder to Bulldog fans as to what he is capable of when he is allowed free reign across half back and through the middle.

The Sicily brain

I’d love to be privy to the James Sicily thought process, how he sees the game, and how he views his opponents. He might be the most interesting player in the league, and you take the bad with what is some spectacular play.

He was resolute again today, controlling the air with 12 marks – eight of which were intercept marks, but his kicking to position was brilliant. Sicily takes the risky kick, simply because he can make it, and does make it.

He was able to rebound the ball outside 50 on eight occasions tonight, and is the perfect complement to the dour defence of Stratton. I don’t mean this as disrespectful in any way, but as much as Stratton is the steak of the Hawthorn defence, Sicily provides a bit of sizzle.

Gunston and Rough

They took a back seat to the exploits of Breust, but in the third quarter, the old firm of Gunston and Roughead combined for five goals amidst the Hawthorn onslaught.

Gunston marked everything, and Roughead started applying the ground level pressure Hawthorn have loved from him for so many years. Rough even had one of those half-hearted one hand reach-up marks fall into his hands. How often do they work? Not often.

With these two firing, and Breust roaming around like a ravenous wolf, the Hawthorn forward line looked ominous.

How amazing would they look with number 33 stalking unsuspecting defenders as well? Alas…

In case you missed it - The Mongrel's Rolling All-Australian Team after Round 15

THE BAD

The Sicily brain fade

Now we had him listed in the category above, because, admittedly, he is an absolute star, but the Hawks are rounding into a game against the Blues in a couple of weeks – remember what happened with Sicily last time these teams met?

Jed Lamb happened, and he would’ve been watching Sicily tonight, getting wound up early by Shane Biggs. Yep, someone named Shane Biggs got Sic so riled up that he threw him to the ground and cost his team a goal. You might argue that Sic was defending himself, or that Biggs shouldn't have gone near him, but that's brown-and-gold glasses stuff. Fact is, he gave away yet another stupid 50.

A lot of people love Sicily because he plays on the edge, but there is a difference between playing on the edge and falling over it. To his credit, Sic composed himself and… well, we already touched on his influence across half back.

The Hawks will challenge for a finals spot in the coming weeks. They are in a great position to make a run deep into September with the draw they have on the way home – I’d hate to see an indiscretion from Sicily be a determining factor as to whether the Hawks are a September threat, or simply making up the numbers.

THE UGLY

Oh no… not accountable players to deal with?

So we had Bontempelli finish with 23 disposals. If you are looking at that on a Sunday morning, scrolling through the internet in between sipping coffee and lamenting the fact you’re heading back to work on Monday, you could be forgiven for thinking he had an okay game.

He didn’t.

Once again, when faced with the prospect of having to beat an accountable player, Bont shrunk. I am sick of hearing him spoken about as a star, because he is simply not living up to it. Stars have an impact irrespective of who runs with them. Stars break tags. Stars don’t wait for their direct opponent to go off injured before getting involved.

Over the course of the season, I’ve seen Bontempelli too passive on too many occasions. He was blanketed by Daniel Howe tonight, and looked nothing like the player people want him to be, and some think he is.

Add to that the costume change from Jason Johannisen at half time when he went into the change rooms looking like Tarzan, and returned playing like Jane. How can a guy have 25 touches in the first half, and wilt so significantly in the second. He had a kid who is playing his 16th game move onto him after half time, and he went to water.

He had four touches in the third quarter and a couple of them were absolute hacks after being allowed to run free to do as he pleased in the first half. He doesn’t like pressure, and only wants the game on his own terms. If I were a Dogs’ supporter, I would be turning the blowtorch on this bloke, because when the pressure is there, he is soft as butter.

The contact beneath the knees rule

You know, when I saw Gary Rohan get his ankle snapped by the Lindsay Thomas slide, I thought the rule change, applied properly, was a good idea.

Yes... applied properly.

Tonight we saw what was perhaps the worst interpretation of that rule we've seen thus far, with Luke Dahlhaus penalised for making contact with Jarman Impey below the knees, WITH HIS HEAD, whist he was picking up the ball and Impey was stationary. It was the most innocuous contact of that sort we've seen, and so far removed from the intended purpose of the rule that I wouldn't blame Dogs' fans for getting up out of their  seats and walking away from the game.

Get the rule right, or get rid of it.

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OTHER BITS

I babbled a bit about Breust earlier, but here’s a bit more. His work rate is excellent. I watched him work up to the wing and back to deep forward on several occasions during the first quarter.

Saw a bit from Josh Schache tonight – enough to make me think that he could be a genuine forward option for a lot of years for the Dogs. Sicily really should not have allowed him to mark on the goal line in the first quarter – didn’t impact the contest at all.

Jarman Impey didn’t have a lot of it, but don’t underrate his game on Luke Dahlhaus, who can really ignite the Dogs. Impey’s spoil on Dahlhaus in the first quarter was half to impact the contest, and half to hurt. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Speaking of Dahlhaus, his ability to stand in a couple of tackles, avoid two more players and deliver to JJ running through the middle was tremendous. It resulted in a goal to Biggs with Sicily hot on his heels. If the Dogs got a little more of that off half back, they’d trouble any team. He just took the pressure on, and beat it.

You love to see a young fella take the game on, and Brad Lynch did that a few times throughout the night. He doesn’t lack for confidence in his ability to find the right target, and when it comes off it looks amazing. That said, he ran right into the hard tackles of Mr Roughead tonight, and both times it cost his team a goal. Sometimes you don’t get the luxury of taking your time in the back half of the ground. A pair of lessons learned the hard way for the young bloke.

Apologies to Liam Shiels for not adding him to the ‘good’ category. He was magnificent tonight, just plugging along being Liam Shiels. 29 touches, six tackles… all in a day’s work.

I thought Caleb Daniel was very unlucky not to get a high free kick against Blake Hardwick early in the second quarter. It slipped a little high, and it was right in front of goal.

I liked what I saw from Tom Boyd tonight, particularly early. He looked like he was invested (well, you’d expect he would be, I suppose) and ran hard to make contests and give second efforts. I was critical of the second efforts the last time I saw him play, but I can’t fault them tonight. I particularly liked his effort to get across and smother the kick of Isaac Smith in the second quarter. McEvoy and Ceglar had his number, but plenty to work with for Boyd. Still needs to clunk a mark or two, even if they are out by himself. He has the capability – we’ve all seen it.

Touched on Luke Breust’s chance at being the first 50/100 player, but he is such a different kind of tackler to Cyril and Puopolo. He doesn’t have the chase down speed – he has just as good, or better timing, however.

Loved Marcus Adams’ tackle on Breust late in the first quarter. I don’t think the Dogs had the right match up for Adams. I may have liked to have seen him on Roughead at some stage, as the players he had (Breust and Gunston) were too agile for him, particularly in the pristine Etihad environment.

The mid-air collision between Jackson Trengove and Dale Morris could’ve been really nasty… all due to a push by Roughead, too.

Nice mark by Roarke Smith in the backline. My jury is out on him. Looks a little robotic at times, to me.

There’s just little moments that kill momentum in a game and Aaron Naughton’s dropped chest mark in the second quarter was one of them. The Dogs were streaming forward, but his fumble allowed the Hawks to repel the attack. If he marks it, they go inside 50 and a shot at goal results.

Not real sure about the free kick Breust got to kick his fifth goal. Yeah it was a push while the ball was coming in, but Luke is a big boy… he can hold his ground if he wants to instead of bouncing around like a pinball.

Great answer to the soft free by the Dogs, with Bont, Dahlhaus and JJ all combining to feed Hunter on the run for the response.

It was about this point I wondered whether Alastair Clarkson forgot that he was some kind of supercoach, as JJ neared 25 touches for the half. Turns out he’d make the move when he was good and ready. That’s why he’s the coach, getting paid good coin, and I’m providing free content on the internet, right?

Jonathon O’Rourke… former number two pick. He’s been killing it at VFL level and got his chance on the big stage tonight. I hope he gets another one, as I’m not sure he made a fist of it. The way Toby McLean ran away from him in a second effort not long before half time made him look a little… hmmmm… lazy.

I have to admit, I did not see the third quarter whitewash coming. The Hawks looked like a million bucks. The Dogs… chump change.

Even when the Dogs did apply great pressure, it didn’t work for them. Both Roarke Smith and Luke Dahlhaus pressured the Shiels attempt to kick inside 50 and smothered it, but in the process, both went to ground. This allowed Shiels to get the ball again and deliver inside 50 to Gunston, who goaled.

Forward structures really started to break down for the Dogs in the third. From halfway through the third quarter, Sicily took six intercept marks. You have to use his man, and his man has to make meaningful leads.

I don’t know why the umpire called Daniel Howe to play on as he was kicking for goal in the third quarter. Did he think he wasn’t having a shot at goal? Or that he only deserved 23 seconds as opposed to everyone else’s 30? It didn’t matter, as Howe banged the goal from outside 50, but far out…

Naughton’s injury is listed as an ankle – it looked to me it was hurt on the take-off as he went to contest a mark. Happy to be proven wrong, though.

Nasty head clash between McEvoy and Dunkley. Big Boy is a bleeder, so you always knew he’d be going off after it. Fingers crossed it is not a fractured cheekbone for McEvoy.

Speaking of Dunkley, he’s been really good for the Dogs recently. Another ten tackles tonight to add to his 23 touches.

And that’s about that for tonight. Like what you’re getting from The Mongrel? Give us a bit of love… not physical love, but we are quite open-minded. Give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter – we’d really appreciate it.