The Hawks held on against the Bombers in a ripping contest at the MCG to run out winners by four points in front of over 68,000.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
This may have been the signature game of Stratton’s career to this point. He was everywhere, which is pretty easy when you’re allowed to zone off and clunk marks all day.
He read the play exceptionally well, putting himself in the right spot to intercept a heap of Bomber forays forward. He had 11 intercept possessions as part of his 19 touches and 11 marks for the day, and played the role of general across half back.
It’s a shame that Stratton is as well known for his mullet as he is for his fantastic defensive efforts as he is probably close to being part of the AA squad at the moment based on his play. He won't make the actual team, but he's been fantastic for Hawthorn and has really stepped it up in the absence of Sicily.
Mitchell and Merrett
They did not play opposite each other, but both these guys were prolific in and around the middle of the ground.
Mitchell had a blindingly good first half, compiling almost 30 disposals and used his incredible vision to start the Hawks running at stoppages. He had Dyson Heppell to contend with in the second quarter and gave him an absolute bath. It’s not Heppell’s natural game to play defensively, and it showed as Mitchell racked up 16 disposals for the quarter.
He was slowed after half time but it looked as though the disposals he had were a little more meaningful – several of his long kicks in the first half landed in the arms of Essendon defenders. Still, he had 22 contested touches amongst his 43 disposals, and had two direct goal assists as well as leading the game in clearances, with 13.
Merrett was actually better than Mitchell in the first quarter, propelling the Bombers forward with his hard running and clean hands. Watching him outrun Isaac Smith early in the last quarter – that was impressive. Not many people can outrun Smith at that stage of the game.
He continued working hard as the Bombers forced their way back into the game late, and was involved in nine scoring thrusts on the day. He had nine clearances to trail only Mitchell for the game, and pumped the ball inside 50 on five occasions.
I didn’t like him falling over in the push and shove in the last quarter. That’s called staging, Zach… it’s not a good look.
Demonstrated his class today with some incredibly clean hands under pressure.
On three occasions I noticed him grabbing the ball in tight quarters and either spinning out of trouble or simply sprinting away from the attention of Bomber players.
He topped 30 touches again, with half of them coming in the contest. He had seven clearances and five tackles to add to his day and is really repaying the Hawthorn faith in him. The Hawks went all out to get O’Meara in the hopes he would produce like he has at times this season. If they expect to go anywhere in September, Jaeger will have to kick it up a notch (thank you Elzar) and reach a new level.
The game itself
Just in case you got sick of the commentators telling you about it, this was a ripping game. I felt it lacked a little passion early in the piece, as though both teams weren’t looking to perpetuate the whole “rivalry” thing here. As much as Dermott Brereton, Mark Harvey, Dipper and so on would have you believe that the rivalry was the driver of this contest, it wasn’t.
Finals was the driver, and the players looked focused on the task at hand as they walked to their positions. You may have noticed very little in the way of pushing and shoving and the usual puffing out of the chests. Players just walked to their positions and prepared. In a game that had moments of complete unprofessionalism (hello Umpire Margetts), the players conducted themselves impeccably.
The game really lifted a notch after half time. There were precious few easy possessions, and when the ball did get out in the open, the game looked as though it was scripted by Stephen Hocking himself, with the forwards having space to either lead into, or run back into. There were physical clashes, there were booming goals, and there were swift shifts of momentum. We were just missing one big hanger!
Just when you thought the game was out of reach and the Hawks had put it away, the Bombers came storming back. It may not have etched another violent or spiteful chapter into the Hawthorn v Essendon rivalry, but the quality of the game enhanced it. This time it fell the way of Hawthorn, but the beauty of a game like this is that it could've gone either way.
The score review works
Wow… just as there was controversy unfolding in Adelaide, the score review people got it right (finally) at the MCG.
If you’re a Hawthorn fan, you would not have been pleased, but Essendon supporters were able to breathe a… no, two sighs of relief as video reviews clearly indicated that two Hawthorn shots at goal were clearly touched off the boot.
The first came late in the third quarter as Ricky Henderson (having an excellent year for the Hawks) gathered the ball in the pocket and kicked around his body on the left. All looked good, and the ball went back to the middle, but wait… was that a David Myers finger bending back as the ball went flying past? I believe it was, and the score was changed.
Next up, we saw young Hawk, Harry Morrison rove the ball and snap a nice goal, however this time it was Trav Colyer getting his fingers to the ball in flight. Again the score was changed from a goal to a behind and there was much rejoicing.
It’s strange that the review, which was initially thought to improve goal line decisions is now much better at detecting whether the ball is touched off the boot than whether it is touched on the line, or if the ball shaves the post. It worked really well in Melbourne today, but if you know anyone who supports Port Adelaide, ask them if they’re a fan.
If there was one bloke who stood up when it counted today, it was Jack Gunston.
As the Bombers put the foot to the floor early in the second quarter, piling on the first three goals of the quarter, it was Gunston who stopped the rot, slotting home his second to get the Hawks moving.
He finished the game with five, which is an equal season-high for him and took the heat off not only Jarryd Roughead, but of the Hawks’ leading goal kicker, Luke Breust. His back to back goals in the last quarter gave the Hawks some breathing room, and his brilliant kick around the corner to Henderson to set up his shot for goal was one of the most intelligent kicks of the afternoon. If ever there was someone making something out of nothing, it was Gunston with that direct goal assist.
When James Sicily went down injured, many speculated that it would be Gunston assuming duties off half back, but when you have a player who can convert like he did today, you’re best not to flirt with form. Clarkson knows what he has in Gunston up forward, and he demonstrated just why Clarko has not wanted to move him too often.
The 50/100 club.
Yep, I’m banging on about this again.
After today’s game, Luke Breust sits just two goals away from the 50 goal mark. He also sits 14 tackles away from the 100 tackle mark for 2018.
For context – no player in history has ever kicked 50 goals and made 100 tackles in a season. No one. Ever. Don’t believe me? Look it up and you’ll probably run into an article we published on The Mongrel months ago stating Breust is most likely to achieve it.
With three games to play, Breust needs 14 tackles and two goals. Can he do it?
For more on the 50/100 club click here.
So you had Stratton at one end clunking marks, and then you had Hooker, also clunking marks but drifting forward and kicking a couple of goals as well.
His mark in the goal square with 90 or so seconds remaining brought the crowd to its feet. He got back quickly and banged through the goal, giving the Bombers one last sniff of September, but his 60 metre crunching goal early in the third quarter was huge.
His work at the other end was just as good, and he beat either Ryan Schoenmakers or Jarryd Roughead with ease at times.
First half Fantasia
He may have drifted out of the game, but in the first half, Orazio Fantasia looked like the best small forward on the park.
He had 14 first half touches and finished the game with two direct goal assists and eight score involvements. Fantasia made excellent space in the first half and worked hard to lock the ball in the Bombers 50. His run down tackle on James Frawley was brilliant, but I feel it said as much for Frawley’s lack of awareness as it did for Fantasia’s speed and tackle.
His goal off the deck in the third quarter showed the sort of footy smarts that have made him a favourite at Windy Hill (still sounds so much better than saying “Tullamarine", so I’m gonna keep saying it) and with a full pre-season under his belt, and an injury free run at it, he is an All-Australian in the making.
Jarryd Roughead’s third quarter
Plenty have sunk the boots into Roughead this year, and in the third quarter, he gave them some more ammunition.
He dropped an easy chest mark 25 metres out early in the quarter that would’ve put the Hawks up by three goals. Instead, the Bombers swept the ball to the other end, and Mark Baguley slotted a goal off the nice give from Stringer. Essendon then kicked four of the next five.
He barely got his hands on it for the remainder of the quarter, being clean bowled in the middle at one stage. His work below his knees, which was once such a strength, has deteriorated pretty quickly. He contested with one hand in the air on a couple of occasions and when he went into the ruck to give Ceglar a break, it was Tom Bellchambers drifting forward and OUTRUNNING Rough to take a mark 15 metres out.
I know it wasn’t in the third quarter, but when he had a chance to shove a dagger into the heart of the Bombers in the last quarter, he missed from 35 metres out, dead in front after being hit lace out by Breust.
Enough of what some will term “Roughead bashing”, I suppose, but it is safe to say that without a certain J Gunston picking up the slack today, there’d be a lot more of a focus on Rough’s game.
Dyson Heppell’s kicking
I reckon this has been suspect all season and it was apparent to me again today. Heppell may be better off being a setup man through the middle, dishing off to people who can actually kick.
I am sure that his efficiency isn’t that bad overall, and a quick check shows me that he is running at around 64 percent efficiency this season. He was right there again today at just over 63% but he turned it over a couple of times at crucial moments.
In the second quarter, the Bombers were once again in control early and opened up a couple of goal lead. Heppell marked at half back and went to make a regulation 30 metre kick along the wing. It didn’t get 30 metres as Harry Morrison chipped in and marked. He hit Puopolo, who sent the Hawks back inside 50 where Isaac Smith roved a spill and snapped a goal.
Late in the game, Bellchambers marked in the middle from the Bombers’ kick in. He handed to Heppell and instead of going direct, Heppell decided to be a little bit fancy. He had options down the ground and had McDonald-Tipungwuti running down to crumb if he elected to go to the one-on-ones. He didn’t elect to do that.
He spotted Jake Stringer between wing and half forward and opted to go toward him. I say “toward him” because the ball dodnt actually get near him. It rolled straight out of bounds. The Bombers were 16 points behind at this stage and they needed to take a risk and put the pressure on. Heppell’s horrible kick took the pressure off the Hawks.
He was absolutely obliterated at stoppages by Tom Mitchell in the first half, and needs to do more as the leader of his club. Kicking like an Under 15 aint helping the Bombers at all.
This was pretty significant. Dyson Heppell marked at half back and immediately handed off to the running Zaharakis, not realising that Liam Shiels was right on his teammate’s tail. Shiels dragged Zaharakis down and won the holding the ball free kick.
James Worpel picked up the ball, took a couple of steps and then stopped and put his hand up, indicating he did not want to take the advantage. It didn’t matter to the umpire, who decided the Hawks DID want to take the advantage and called play on. Worpel was nailed in a tackle and the ball went down the other end where Jake Stringer got out the back to run into an open goal.
It was a disastrous call by the umpire – Dean Margetts for those playing along at home, and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the game. It cost a goal and allowed the Bombers to get a sniff at a point where Hawthorn really should’ve been going back inside their 50.
OK, onto my favourite bit where I can just talk randomly about things I spotted during the game and what I liked, etc…
Probably the best game I have seen James Frawley play for quite a while. He looked quite confident overhead, which is a new thing for him if I’m not mistaken?
I’m guessing Bomber fans feel the same way about McDonald-Tipungwuti and his performances that Hawks fans used to feel about Cyril? Others may look at what he should be doing more of, but Bomber fans look at what he does do – would that be right? He had 14 touches and six tackles today, but every time I watch him I think he should be doing more. Am i wrong?
One touch in the first quarter for Stringer today – I reckon this is the fifth time this year I’ve seen him have one touch in the first quarter.
The Bombers looked so switched on early, to the point I thought they may put the Hawks to the sword. They were hitting targets all over the ground and slicing through the Hawks’ defence with apparent ease. And then… the switch flipped.
Great to see McKenna willing to run off half back and get forward. He was on Luke Breust when he ran forward to kick his first goal… and Breust was eighty metres away as it sailed through..
Brendon Goddard had a couple of moments he’d like back today. Allowing Isaac Smith over the back in a marking contest just inside 50, knowing full well there was no stopping him if he got it… big mistake.
Not sure what else James Frawley could do but handball in the vicinity of the boundary line when he’s running right at it, and being tackled. They're so hot on deliberate out of bounds at times.
Stringer got the first goal of the second half and did that horrible tongue out thing he does… who knows where that thing has been! Anyway, he looked quite dangerous in the second, and he finished with a game-high three goal assists (two to Mark Baguley) and three of his own. His goal from the boundary was a thing of beauty in the second. Perfect kick, and he knew it as it left his boot. Maybe his best game as a Bomber? Maybe second best?
I was quite amused to see Isaac Smith trying to break Devon Smith’s tackle in the second quarter. Isaac… you simply don’t break Devon’s tackles; he’s a machine!
Clear free kick to Liam Shiels missed as David Myers hurled him out of the contest at half forward. This allowed McKenna to kick his second goal.
Massive win in the air for Harry Morrison to beat Goddard across half back. He had no right to make the contest, let alone win it, but he did. He got the ball to Breust… goal.
I would’ve loved Ben Stratton to be credited with the goal from the centre. It was a mammoth kick, and Ricky Henderson just got a leg on it in the goal square as it bounced through. Really made the 50 metre penalty at half back a huge one. That was against fantasia, but looking at it just now… there wasn’t much in it.
Michael Hurley had a few nice wins when switched onto Gunston in the second quarter. The good times didn't last long, however.
Interesting side note from today; we had the first and second place finishers in the 2017 Rising Star award on opposing sides today. I think it’s safe to say that neither has set the world on fire this season. Burton had a decent game today with 21 touches and seven marks. He also had a couple of very nice defensive plays. I especially liked his efforts against Stringer in the air in the second. And McGrath… well, he did kick that late goal, but other than that, he was pretty quiet again. Just 10 touches to his name this afternoon. He just hasn’t taken that next step this season. Neither of them have.
Roughead had one moment of glory today, with his big goal from 50 sailing through in the second quarter. I have to say… I was happy for him, which isn’t such a great thing because it could come across as pity. I hope he has a big finals series to shut me up!
Good to see Ceglar clunk a big mark and kick a goal from distance in the third quarter. I reckon Bellchambers would like to have that spoiling attempt over again. Anyway, he worked hard to redeem himself, leaving Roughead in his wake to mark 15 metres out at the other end minutes later.
Have loved the work of Mark Baguley up forward this season. Really adds a bit of grunt to the Bomber forward line.
There was some real class in the chain of disposals that saw O’Meara start the Hawks running and Breust hit Gunston on the boundary for his third goal. The Hawks look smooth with those three involved.
With the pressure mounting in the third, you started to see players making uncharacteristic mistakes. Fantasia’s dropped chest mark and subsequent panicked throw are the sort of actions I’ve rarely seen from someone of his quality.
How many Hawk fans had their hearts in their mouths as Frawley tracked the ball back as the deepest defender with Mitch Brown chasing him? It’s the kind of scenario Frawley usually makes a meal of. I have to say, he was solid this time, and he was able to dance around Brown and start the Hawks running.
Breust looked incredibly dangerous early in the last quarter. He missed a shot he’d usually nail, but his front and centre minutes later that almost led to a Puopolo goal was exquisite. Exquisite? Yep, that’s what I said.
Great to see someone committing to actually shepherding instead of thinking of his own stats. Well done Ben Stratton – your decision to hold off your opponent to allow Frawley to gather and clear was a team-first decision.
Great roving from Gunston (from the Bellchambers tap) to snap his fourth goal. Left Goddard in his wake.
The Bombers should now keep Aaron Francis in for the remainder of the year. He looked a bit lost at times today, and right at home at others.
How good was Stratton’s mark over the top of Fantasia in the last few minutes. It was the defender’s dream. An intercept mark, and the chance to crash into the forward in your way.
Wonderful hit by Francis on O’Meara late in the game. Fair and firm… just like me.
Seeing James Worpel keep his feet and win the contest against Hurley to basically seal the game for the Hawks should be shown to all junior footy players – keep your bloody feet! Michael Hurley… the kid beat you hands down in that contest, and deserved the goal.