The Power headed down to Launceston hoping to chalk up their sixth victory of 2019 against the Hawks. Those hopes were put to bed after a woeful first term from the away side, who failed to trouble the scorers for the entirety of the opening stanza. Yet, in some respects, the Power were never out of the game despite never really being in it.
Here’s the Mongrel’s heroes and zeroes.
A stalwart of the Hawks forward-half, Jack Gunston was back to his very best at York Park. Gunston kicked six goals, had plenty of the footy and provided a threatening aerial presence in attack. When he wasn’t clinching marks himself, Gunston would bring the ball to ground and provide the likes of Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo with crumbing opportunities. For the Hawks to threaten the eight, and dare I say it the last Saturday in September, they’ll need Jack Gunston playing at his absolute optimum.
As he showed on Saturday, his best is very, very good. The quality of Gunston was highlighted in the third quarter, when the Hawk swooped on a dribbling footy that looked to be going through for a behind, and deftly tapped it through the goals with the inside of his boot. It was game awareness that one can’t teach - it was simply an illustration of how he naturally grasps the little things of footy, and delivers.
It may have taken almost two years for the Power backman to force his way back into the side, but Matt Broadbent has proved his critics wrong since his return to AFL level. In a game where the Power’s backline was constantly in defensive mode, Broadbent provided some much-needed run and carry football, helping to kickstart some transition work from their defensive 50m.
The veteran finished with 28 touches and seven marks, and his calming influence in the clinches was evident on numerous occasions, particularly in the third quarter. On one occasion, the ball was bubbling around in the Hawks attacking half, and Broadbent cleanly grabbed hold of the Sherrin, shimmied to his left and right, and sent a pinpoint 50m bullet to a teammate on the wing. It was the type of football that Port had been hoping the defender would have consistently delivered over his career. While he may only be hitting his straps in the latter half of his AFL journey, it’s better late than never.
If the former Crow wasn’t a shoe in for an All-Australian selection before today’s game, then he well and truly cemented himself as a front-runner for a spot on the wing after another masterful performance. Henderson accumulated 37 disposals and snapped up 11 marks, playing a crucial role in many of his teams goals. Too be fair, nobody really knew Ricky Henderson before he joined the Hawks, in fact I’m not even sure that the wily old veteran ever knew himself the talent that he possesses.
Under Alistair Clarkson, Henderson has fitted in perfectly to a rolling wing and half-forward position, and his foot skills have added plenty of punch to his game this season. Hats off to Ricky Henderson for growing his game, and to the Hawks recruitment team for seeing the oak tree in the acorn, and securing his services.
Talk about making the most of your opportunities. Hawthorn were forced to find a replacement for big man Mitch Lewis who failed to recover from a concussion injury sustained last week, and Pittonet aptly filled the void. From the first bounce, Pittonet showed ferociousness around the contest and a willing to crack in and make second and third efforts. While he only finished with eight touches, Pittonet won the hitouts count against Port’s Patrick Ryder and lowered the colours of his direct opponent at several contests. Well played, Marc Pittonet!
The Power’s small forwards
Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, Sam Gray and Kane Farrell were nowhere to be seen on Saturday. While credit must be given to the Hawks defense for nullifying their influence, the quartet of forwards failed to play with the same work rate they have shown to this point of the season. Maybe fatigue is starting to set in, or perhaps the players had mentally switched off after defeating a less defensively-minded Gold Coast Suns team.
Either way, Ken Hinkley would certainly be asking questions of forward line. This criticism must also be extended to big man Billy Frampton. Frampton enjoyed a good game against the Suns last week, but he had an absolute howler this round. He finished with nine touches, a single behind, and no doubt a deflated ego. It’s fair to say many players will be sweating on whether they will be jetting off to China next week or heading back to the SANFL.
He’s one of football’s most polarising players. When he’s at his best, Motlop’s footy is breathtaking, but at his worse, he’s a definition of mediocrity. Sadly, for Motlop and the Power, his game fell into the latter category against the Hawks. Motlop wasn’t prepared to dig in and get his knees dirty in the trenches. His game lacked pace and balance, his foot skills were abysmal.
Then, when he had two great opportunities to goal and bring himself and his side into the game, he missed. Motlop’s career is veering towards being one of those where footy pundits will sit back and ask: what could have been? For Motlop, I hope he can find the form of football where fans are left in awe at the incredible talent he possesses.
Jarryd Roughead was controversially axed from the senior team a couple of weeks ago, and I have an inkling that Shaun Burgoyne may well be the next big name heading back to the VFL. The veteran Hawk has been one of those players who one just can’t help but respect. His career has been enormous, and his best football was silky smooth, so it pains me to hypothesise about his future in this way. However, father time eventually catches up with all of us, and Burgoyne has been slowing down in recent weeks.
He finished with 12 touches today, of which only four were kicks. In other words, Burgoyne’s impact was minimal. A loyal servant to the game, it would be a great shame to see Burgoyne finish his time as a footballer in the VFL. Let’s hope he rediscovers some of the form that has allowed him to continue to be playing football at the ripe age of 36.
The Power gave up a great chance to launch the second half of their season with a 6-4 ledger. Instead, they’ll head to China next week at 5-5, still with no certainty surrounding their finals credentials. If the Power can’t win contests like today, I can’t see them making the eight. They simply have not been consistent enough to be worthy of playing finals. With that being said, there is plenty of time left in the 2019 season, and the Power can’t be written off just yet. But if they do end up missing September, is it time to cut Ken Hinkley loose? Only time will tell, I guess.