SF Melbourne v Hawthorn - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Dees withstood a last quarter challenge by the Hawks to steady and run out winners by 33 points moving within a game of the big one in the process.

The lid is off, Dees fans – here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

Clayton Oliver

The baby-faced assassin was at it again tonight.

Matched up with one of the best two-way runners in the game in Liam Shiels, Oliver took a little while to warm into the game, but once he did, he was integral in the Dees kicking away from the Hawks.

He finished with 11 contested touches from his 22 disposals, and seven vital clearances for his team. Not his greatest ever numbers, but the value of some of those fourth quarter touches was immeasurable.

As the Hawks were coming at the Dees in the last quarter, closing to two goals, it was Oliver in the middle, farming the ball out to the running Angus Brayshaw to stop the rot. If not for Oliver’s in and under work when the game was on the line right then and there, the Hawks looked as though they had all the running and could’ve run away with the game.

His feed to Brayshaw ended in the hands of Jake Melksham, who turned onto his left foot and slammed home a goal from 50 metres out. The commentators credited Brayshaw for the extraction, but if there was any extraction, it should’ve been BT and co. extracting their thumbs from their ass and realising that it was Oliver doing the hard stuff and getting the Dees moving.

Neville Jetta

Let’s forget for a moment the work Jetta did inside defensive 50, and let’s go back into the guts, in the first quarter. Tom Mitchell ran onto the ball and had to quickly get a kick forward. He had no time, and threw the ball on his boot.

And why was he in such a hurry? Well, you see, there was this little hard nut coming the other way with baaaaaad intentions. As Mitchell got the kick away, Jetta lowered his shoulder and crunched Mitchell. It was a completely fair hit but it carried with it an element of risk – it was the sort that if it goes a bit too high, we might look at him missing weeks.

But that was the Dees as a metaphor in the first quarter – they took the risks. The Hawks tried to slow things down and the Dees took the game on.

But I digress – we’re talking about Jetta. That hit on Mitchell made for an easier night for James Harmes, and the Melbourne Footy Club in general. It slowed, and for a little while, stopped the Hawks’ prime mover. Jetta had 17 touches, and owned Luke Breust when they were matched up on each other (we’ll get to Breust).

There are those who have ignored the sort of season Jetta’s had, and nights like this should make them ashamed of themselves. He takes the best small forward every week, and is very rarely beaten. Add tonight to the list of great games for the Melbourne back pocket. A phenomenal effort once more.

Christian Petracca

Now, he was good – don’t get me wrong, but by God there will come a game somewhere in the next little while – if not this year, then next – where Christian Petracca will rip a game to shreds. I’m talking a 30+ possession and 4+ goal kind of game. You can see it coming on the horizon with him. He just looks like an absolute monster.

He had 22 touches tonight, had beautiful hands both in the air and at ground level and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when it was his turn to go. He pumped the Dees inside 50 on seven occasions, and looked dangerous all night.

Gawn v McEvoy

The Big Boy looked like a happy man tonight, getting to go mano-e-mano (I’m practicing my Spanish) against the All-Australian ruckman.

McEvoy started well, and at quarter time had double the amount of hit outs of Max Gawn, but one of Gawn’s best attributes is his tank, and by half time things were on a level pegging.

In the end, Gawn had taken a towering mark in defence, had started really feeding the ball down the throats of his mids. I thought after quarter time, Gawn’s service to Viney and Oliver was first class, and though McEvoy was able to nullify him when he could clash bodies with him, if Gawn was able to get position, the eyes of the Dees midfielders were lighting up.

I’d give the contest to Gawn. He rallied to win the hit outs 41-25 and had 17 effective hit outs to McEvoy’s nine. Big Boy threw down the gauntlet in the first quarter, and Big Max picked it up.

Jack F’n Viney

Name me a player who is harder at it than Jack Viney? Maybe Joel Selwood? Maybe Paddy Cripps? He’s in illustrious company right there.

His work tonight in close confines was superb, and his ability to use his strength to shrug and break tackles frustrated opponents all game. His reintroduction to this Melbourne side came at exactly the right time - he has every attribute the critics said they lack. I thought the Dees may have been making a mistake when they rushed him back last week, but it turns out they knew exactly what they were doing. I guess that’s why they’re paid to run a footy club and I am the dude being told he can’t post links on BigFooty because it “takes the discussion offsite.”

Viney is tough, uncompromising, fearless and brutal in his attack on the ball and man. He is a hard man to move in at the centre square, and his ability to change direction suddenly left more than a few players standing flat-footed.

He finished with game highs both in disposals (27) and contested touches (17) whilst adding eight clearances, seven inside 50 disposals and five tackles. Not a bad day out on your second outing upon return from injury.

Not bad at all.

The pivotal moment

Talk about a turnaround… I don’t know whether to put this in the good, the bad or the ugly.

Jack Gunston was one of the Hawks’ best tonight. He finished with 3.5 and could’ve really been the difference in the ga… hang on – he may have been the difference in the game!

When he ran into an open goal and tried some sort of running snap, he hit the post, and started a chain of events that saw Alex Neal-Bullen convert for goal at the other end (see below). It would’ve brought the Hawks to within eight points, and given the way they started the last, maybe it would’ve been enough.

It’s a tough word – maybe. Maybe this, maybe that… maybe, had Jack Gunston slotted a goal at that point, the Hawks would’ve rallied, or maybe the Dees would’ve still kicked the next three goals. Irrespective, we can only look at what did happen, and with the open goal beckoning, Jack Gunston slammed the ball into the post (how bloody hard did he kick it, by the way?) and it cost the momentum, and a goal at the other end.

What could’ve been…

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THE BAD

James Frawley’s decision to kick inboard

So at some stage, you’d think James Frawley might start to realise his limitations, huh?

All year, every year, James Frawley’s kicking is a huge question mark over his game. He is great at belting it 55 metres out of defence, and no one begrudges him that. He is fine chipping it across goal as the Hawks transition the ball to the other side of the ground under little pressure, but when there is a risky kick to take, is he the bloke you trust to take it?

You saw the difference between his inboard kicks and that of Tom Mitchell, right? The Mitchell kick set the Hawks running and resulted in a huge running Isaac Smith goal to start the last quarter. Frawley’s efforts resulted in huge turnovers.

As Clint Eastwood famously said “A man’s got to know his limitations.” It’s painfully obvious that James Frawley is unaware of his. Perhaps the master coach could have a word with him and clue him in before he hacks another inboard pass and opens the door for the opposition?

Clayton Oliver’s dive

Far out this is a bad look for the game.

Tom Mitchell bumped into Clayton Oliver off the ball. It was a glorified chest bump, but Oliver went down like a sack of… spuds. Yes, I guess spuds will do. This gave the Dees a downfield free kick and a chance to score.

Earlier in the year, Alex Rance was chastised for diving – I hope Oliver gets the same treatment, because he folded like a house of cards, and probably deserves a fine. You know who else deserves a fine? The idiot umpire who fell for it and paid the reversal of the free kick downfield.

This is a game played by elite athletes. Yes, they try to extract every ounce of advantage they can in every contest, but collapsing to the ground in an “incident” the likes of Tom Mitchell bumping into you slightly, when you’re one of the best contested ball winners in the game and renowned for standing up under pressure… it’s not something you should be proud of.

Cut that garbage out, Clayton.

One handball almost undoes a very good night

So this was the result of Jack Gunston’s poster at the other end.

I had Liam Shiels as one of Hawthorn’s best players on the night, but how he missed the handball to James Sicily at a pivotal moment late in the third quarter, I’ll never know.

We all understand pressure. We all understand fatigue. We can even understand skill errors, but to miss a three metre handball to the running James Sicily undid some excellent work by Sicily moments before, and resulted in a goal to Alex Neal-Bullen.

Shiels has been an absolute warrior for Hawthorn, and to focus of this moment is doing him, and his overall game a disservice, but it’s just so damned hard to get past. If he makes that handball, the Hawks were off and running from half back. Instead, Melbourne goaled and then slammed home two more to lead by 32 points at three quarter time

Too Nice

What happened to the unsociable Hawks?

I’ll set the scene for you. The long ball comes into the Hawks forward line and Jarryd Roughead is steaming out into the near forward pocket. Standing in his way, in the hole if you will, is Bayley Fritsch. Roughead had a choice to make here He could either crash into the back of Fritsch, knees up and make him really pay for dropping into his path, or he could contest the mark with minimal contact.

He chose the latter.

I found myself watching this take place and wondering if this would’ve happened during the “unsociable” era of Hawthorn? Would a hungry, success-starved young Roughead let Fritsch off the hook the way he did tonight? I can’t see it happening, and I can’t see Alastair Clarkson being overly enthused that his captain didn’t crash into Fritsch tonight. I reckon Hodgey would’ve done it.

In a way, it reminded me of Taylor Walker in the 2017 Grand Final. He had a chance in that game to punish Nick Vlastuin and he didn’t take it. It was a chance to make a statement – a hard, physical statement that would’ve made Fritsch second guess dropping into that hole again… if he was able to play on.

No one wants to see anyone injured, but Hawk fans, do you want to see your players letting opponents off the hook when there is a chance to make them pay?

I know what my answer would be.

Below the knees free kicks

There were two incidents tonight that made me shake my head, and both went against the Dees. Actually, there were three –  the free kick to Jack Viney for in the back AFTER he’d already been caught holding the ball was absolutely stupid, and it was made worse by the ump’s explanation… but the first two I mentioned were very similar in nature.

Both Angus Brayshaw and Jordan Lewis were called for contact below the knees at pivotal moments in the game. In both cases, the Melbourne players were making a play on the ball, and the contact was inadvertent. Neither were likely to cause injury, and neither were a result of the player sliding in.

This is an example of the AFL implementing a rule and then watching it get bastardised to the point where you can’t even tell when it’s going to be paid and when it isn’t.

The incident that sparked this rule coming into vogue – the Lindsay Thomas slide into Gary Rohan that broke his ankle was NOTHING like either of the incidents we saw this evening.

It’s times like this, when you hear about “Competition Committees”, you get Gerard Whately cheerleading for the AFL rule changes, and you start to wonder where the mooted changes in 2019 will lead the game. If any of the new rule interpretations end up like the “contact below the knees” rule, it’s no wonder footy fans aren’t welcoming these changes with open arms.

Upshot is, both Brayshaw and Lewis were incredibly stiff to have free kicks awarded against them, and this rule stinks! I hope it doesn’t cost a team a game over the next couple of weekends.

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OTHER BITS

Alrighty then… down to the nitty gritty.

You could see the attention Mitchell was going to get from Harmes all evening right from the outset. The holding free kick to Mitchell at the opening bounce also showed that the umps were already aware of Harmes’ tactics.

I’ve elected not to give too much attention to the Mitchell v Harmes duel as I don’t think we had a fair match-up this evening. Mitchell was obviously banged up early, which made Harmes’ job a lot easier. Whilst I still think Harmes did a great job curtailing Mitchell’s overall effectiveness, he still gathered 24 touches and led the game in clearances and went at 92% efficiency. Harmes, who should’ve been able to capitalise on Mitchell’s injury, had 19 touches and 11 tackles (game high). I can’t give Harmes the nod here. Given Mitchell’s issues, he could’ve really done better. Like King Arthur and the armless, legless Black Knight, we’ll call it a draw.

I thought Ricky Henderson was one of the best Hawks on the ground at half time. Went right out of it after half time, but his season has been excellent for Hawthorn. I think he’ll poll well in their Best and Fairest.

Tom McDonald was once again easily the best forward on the ground. He has become one of the best one-grab marks in the game, and the way he attacked the ball early was excellent. I will never understand how he manages to get such space out the back, but there he is, week after week, doubling back and finding the ball on the long kick. Loved his work today - couldn’t fit him in the ‘good’ section simply because it was getting a little bizz-ay in there.

Loved Michael Hibberd’s willingness to tuck the ball under his wing and take a risk early in the piece. The Dees really love to run, carry and use that linking handball, which was such a stark contrast to Hawthorn’s slow, methodical style. Truth be told, I hate the way Hawthorn are playing in their current structure. They can say they’re being patient, and building, or whatever, but when they get the ball, no one is taking a risk until it’s too late… unless your name is James Frawley. For him, just being around the ball is risky enough.

Best piece of end to end play involved the Dees taking a risk. The torp from full back by Frost, the 50-50 win in the guts, the quick hands from Brayshaw, Petracca and Oliver, and then the mark 20 metres out to TMac. That, people, was champagne football, and why people have fallen in love with the way Melbourne plays.

I know I already mentioned Jetta’s hit on Mitchell… but I loved it so much I’m mentioning it again. Fan-bloody-tastic!

I’m struggling to come up with a reason why no Hawthorn player say James Harmes on his ass at some stage of the game, and all I can think of is that they have nobody capable? You have the best ball-winner in the game, and he’s being continually harrassed by a tagger… why didn’t someone help him out more? The Hawks are disciplined and didn’t want to risk someone being suspended for next week. Turns out no one will be suspended, Harmes is lauded for stopping Mitchell, and there’s no next week for the Hawks anyway.

I’m watching this on replay, and the thing I am noticing more and more… the Dees are like my mate Joe Ganino. They’re desperate, the love to get their hands on the ball, and they’ll actually try their best to seek out physical contact on a Friday evening. Seriously though, this is a team not trying to avoid physicality. They’ll take the hit in order to allow a better opportunity for a teammate. It is a commendable trait.

So how did the Hawks’ “ins” go? Schoenmakers was OK. Started well, and made a few contests. Didn’t sag off Gawn when the big man drifted into defence and he made him work hard a couple of times down there. Two goals was a decent return, but had he kicked his second in the first quarter… the Hawks walk a bit taller. Mirra made some mistakes – he is no Ben Stratton, and though he was good in the first quarter, his second left a bit to be desired. He rallied in the second half to be one of the better-performed defenders for the game. And Duryea… I like your sheets. But what I don’t like is watching you get out-bodied so easily in marking contests.

Incredibly tough free kick against Neville Jetta for holding the ball resulted in a goal to Gunston. Looked as though Gunston dragged the ball in just as much as Jetta did, but there was no question in my mind Jetta WANTED to keep possession of the ball… could’ve gone either way.

Jack Viney’s ability to stand in a tackle and shrug it is a wonderful talent to possess. I am actually surprised when he gets caught holding the ball and doesn’t fight his way free of the tackle.

So Luke Breust finished with four tackles, taking him to 99 for the year. If you’ve been reading these for a while, you know what that means, right? 99 tackles for the season – he misses being the first ever player to kick 50 goals and register 100 tackles in a season. He really screwed up his tackling stats in the last half of the season. If you want to read more about the 50/100 club, click here.

Loved the commitment of both James Worpel and Jordan Lewis putting their bodies on the line in the second quarter. Worpel was pretty disappointing overall this evening, and has not been able to replicate his home and away season form in the last two finals games.

Six behinds and zero goals to Hawthorn in the second. Want to know where the game was won and lost? That’d give you a bit of an indication. Meanwhile the Dees kicked three and added six more in the third. Bad kicking is bad football.

He often gets overshadowed now, but I loved the desperation of Nathan Jones off half back in the second. His work to get the ball to Max Gawn down the line was exceptionally good when so many others would’ve been content to see the ball over the line.

How great was the pace on Hibberd to match Gunston stride for stride in the race back toward goal. Hibberd has some real acceleration about him, as I think Gunston had a slight start on him.

I know I spoke about Oliver diving, but I was really glad to see the umpire not fall for Paul Puopolo’s flailing to draw a free kick deep in attack in the third. It was really good umpiring.

Aaron vandenBerg’s effort to punish Ryan Burton after the latter dropped a mark at half back was excellent in the second. As the ball hit the ground, Vanders got rid of Burton like he was nothing, and got the ball to Spargo, who then hit Brayshaw for a goal. It was a terrible defensive play by Burton, and his passivity in the contest cost his team a goal, but not many win a one-on-one contest against vandenBerg – he is a hell of a match up for anyone.

He didn’t have much of the ball, but Angus Brayshaw’s contested marking was excellent today. He took a nice one in the second and capped it off with a ripper in the last quarter too.

I’ve watched this happen all year. Can anyone explain to me why Hawthorn does not have someone who drops back and plays the role of goal keeper? I saw Oscar McDonald and Sam Frost both do it tonight, but no one from Hawthorn does it. They were lucky Neal-Bullen’s snap early in the third was wide.

Loved the discipline from the Dees in the third quarter, simply refusing to allow Hawthorn to break down their defensive set up. The way they moved and cut off angles forced the Hawks into a very conservative game style.

The deliberate out of bounds free kick against Ricky Henderson demonstrated that, at times, umps have no genuine feel for the game. He actually looked like he wanted to keep the ball in, but it hit his boot and ran out. Well, that umpire has a whistle for a reason, right? Yep, he blew it, alright. Terrible call.

One thing I noticed about the Dees tonight is that they don’t just throw the ball on the boot at stoppages. They always try to buy time and use the ball well. At half forward, both TMac and Petracca were involved in extracting the ball, lowering the eyes and finding a man. It resulted in a shot at goal for vandenBerg after Petracca hit Salem at half forward. Great poise.

I thought Harry Morrison had a good second quarter, and was handier than the others but the Hawks kids really didn’t show up again. Yes, Alastair Clarkson, I know they’ll get some experience… but they didn’t look too ready for finals. Worpel, despite his goal in the first, was a non-factor again. And Nash… well, when you get hit by the ball in the back of the head, you kind of know it’s not your day.

 

So, if I were to pick my five best players on the ground?

Neville Jetta – Loved his game on Breust, and his attack on the footy, and man.

Jack Viney – Just so hard at it

Clayton Oliver – Almost as hard at it as Viney!

Christian Petracca – The best game I’ve seen him play, but his potential is enormous.

Tom McDonald – Old McDonald kicked four goals, ee aye ee aye oh, he was steady.

 

And the five worst?

Conor Nash – Waaaaaaay out of his depth. Looked like he came from another country and had hardly played the game… or something.

James Worpel – The big finals games are too much for him at the moment.

Shaun Burgoyne – Second shocker in a row for Silk. Maybe that fine stitching is starting to fray? Disappointing.

Luke Breust – Expected so much more. I am kind of hoping he’s hurt so at least there’s a reason for his two terrible finals.

James Frawley – Turnover king. Untrustworthy with ball in hand.

Hmmmm… I see that the best are all Dees, and the worst are all Hawks. Is this taking the easy way out? Possibly, but you tell me one Hawthorn player that was better than any of those five Melbourne players. I actually thought Michael Hibberd was very unlucky to miss that list - he would’ve been my next choice.

By the same token, you tell me a Melbourne player that was worse than those Hawks mentioned above. Even some of the less prominent Demons contributed well. Hannan’s forward half pressure was good, Tyson did some clearance work, and Alex Neal-Bullen’s work to keep the ball inside 50, as well as his four score involvements mean he was a better bet than those Hawks.

So there we go – the Demons have booked a return flight to Perth where they’ll meet the Eagles. Their win against West Coast last time was the win that kick-started their finals campaign. They believe they have the ability to do the job, and the Eagles, unlike the Hawks, have the ability to match them with daring through the guts.

For the Hawks, another loss has seen them leave the finals in straight-sets twice in a row now. They’ll regroup and are always players in the trade period. We’ll do a deep dive on their season soon enough.

 

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