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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Hawthorn v GWS

So someone thought it was a good idea to play a game in early August at night in Canberra. I wonder if someone will put their hand up and claim it?

I certainly wouldn’t.

For us watching at home, it was a spectacle. Snow… at an AFL game – I certainly haven’t  seen it happen before, and if sanity prevails, I probably won’t see it again.

Still, the Hawks and their smiling, half-naked coach will be happy with the four points banked and the narrow sliver of finals still a reality.

The Giants… well, they should be disgusted with themselves. That performance was not the performance of a team that expects to contend. They were insipid at worst, and average at best.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE HAWKS’ WET WEATHER FOOTY

Whilst I was not a fan of playing a game in these conditions, I have to admit, I was quite interested in how different it all was. The Hawks looked as though they were genuinely happy to experiencing something completely different when it comes to AFL footy. The Giants, on the other hand… they weren’t so impressed.

It was telling at the quarter time break as shots of the Hawks had them looking skyward, smiling and laughing as they huddled together. They were no doubt told to enjoy the experience and make the most of it, because they will likely never play in those sorts of conditions again.

Unless the AFL are complete idiots… so I suppose there is a chance.

And the Hawks did enjoy themselves. They feasted on a team not willing to do the hard yards. GWS looked like a team that simply did not want to be there, and the contrast between them and the Hawks was startling.

While the Hawks ran, attacked and pressured, the Giants retreated, attempted to finesse and fell into the Hawks’ trap, over and over.

We’ve often heard GWS referred to as a Ferrari, and we’ve heard people say Leon Cameron was handed the keys to this beast without knowing how to drive a manual. Well, today he found himself stuck in first, crunching the gears, unable to locate the clutch, and stalling.

And he did it in the middle of what the Hawks turned into a demolition derby. Clarkson’s troops crashed and bashed their way forward at every opportunity. GWS, on the other hand, looked as though they’d never played wet weather footy before.

It was a comprehensive belting from the Hawks, crushing the Giants for the second time this season, and keeping their very slim finals chances alive. They sensed weakness and it drove them into a pressuring, manic frenzy, and the more they attacked, the more GWS went into their shell.

If this was a test for GWS to face adversity and overcome, they failed miserably. On a night when the snowflakes fell, one team of snowflakes fell particularly hard, and in many ways, the Giants showed a level of weakness they had not yet revealed this season. They’ll need to get some players back, and they’ll need to be a hell of a lot better than this if they expect to be in the mix in a month’s time.

 

JAMES WORPEL

The game was won in the first half, and Worpel was at his best right then. His half time stats included 19 disposals and five clearances as he showed a clean pair of heels to his GWS opponents at stoppages. He was hard at it, and there was a genuine sense that he believes he can take any player in the game on head-to-head and come out on top.

He finished with 31 touches and eight clearances as he continues to put up big numbers for a 20 year old.

Worpel is the silver lining of the dark cloud that was the Tom Mitchell injury this season. If the Brownlow Medallist can return to his 2018 form next season, the addition of Worpel to the midfield group will be invaluable. He may go long inside 50 a little too often when lowering his eyes is the better option, but for a bloke his age to collect the ball like he does, take the hits and provide the grunt work at stoppages, the Hawks have well and truly found a young star of the game.

And they did it at pick 45.

I think there would be a lot of list managers looking at Worpel and wondering what they were thinking after the 2017 season.

 

TOBY GREENE

Call him whatever you want. Besmirch his character if you like. Boo him. Jeer him. Hate him if it makes you feel better, but ladies and gentlemen… respect the game of this man, for it is all-round brilliant.

I feel for a couple of other Giants (Zac Williams ran his guts out, Nick Haynes was hurt earky and looked like Voldemort with a wig on, and Phil Davis battled on) as there were plenty stating that Greene was the only guy having a genuine go out there tonight. That obviously wasn't true.

That said, of the players having a genuine go for the Giants, Greene was far and away the best.

He threw himself into contest after contest, and it was his work in the second quarter that dragged the Giants back into the game. He finished the first half with six clearances, five of them coming in the second quarter.

For the game, Greene was a statistical monster, with a game-high 38 disposals, 20 contested touches and eight clearances. He’s carried their young midfield in recent weeks, and with no Kelly, no Coniglio and no Callan Ward, he’ll have to continue to do so.

Those who read The Mongrel Punt would be well aware that I am a huge fan of Greene’s work. Whilst he will mix it up whenever the opportunity arises, his work ethic, willingness to compete, and skill with the ball in hand make him a complete package.

And the fact he has a big of Mongrel in him doesn’t go astray, either.

There were a few Giants who could hold their heads high after this effort, but only a few. Chief amongst them is Toby Greene. When on, he is one of the undoubted best in the league. He is a warrior. Sadly, on too many occasions tonight, he had to stand and fight alone.

 

JAMES SICILY

A few weeks ago, James Sicily absolutely destroyed Mason Cox as the Hawks polished off the Magpies. At the time I believe I said it was the most polished defensive display I’d seen from Sicily.

This one would have to go close to matching it.

By half time, Sicily had compiled 11 intercept disposals as he patrolled the half back line, cutting off any wayward foray inside 50 from the Giants. Matched up early against Jeremy Cameron, Sicily appeared to have his work cut out for him, but as the game progressed, he was moved into the more customary role of swingman.

And Sicily swung indeed.

Did you know he was a swinger? It’s news to me, but hey… it’s Sic – anything could happen with this bloke and I wouldn’t be surprised. I bet you’d look for his car keys in the bowl, wouldn’t you?

Coming into this game, I had a bit of a note to keep an eye on the performances and impact of the key backmen/rebounders, as I thought it may be a match-up between two potential All-Australian half backs; Sicily at one end and Nick Haynes at the other. A significant win would, in my shallow little mind, put one above the other in the race for one of those AA half back flank roles. Suffice to say, right now Sicily has that spot.

He finished with a career-high 33touches and 16 intercepts en route to being one of the best couple of players on the park. He was calm, in control and used the ball well as he rolled off his opponent and set his team up from half back.

Sicily may be a hot head. He may be undisciplined, fiery and unpredictable, but when he is allowed to roam across half back to do as he pleases, he is one of the most potent transition players in the league. That he had 33 touches is an indictment on Leon Cameron. That 22 of his touches were uncontested is an indictment of Leon Cameron’s coaching. And that he wasn't targeted in any way and made to think about his opponent as opposed to the ball is an indictment on Leon Cameron’s coaching.

Sicily was fantastic, but Leon Cameron allowed him the opportunity to be fantastic.

 

THE CHAD

Hey, did you see that number 20 running around out there with the great acceleration from the contest and the ability to break lines?

That was the Chad Wingard Hawthorn fans were hoping would be wearing brown and gold this season. Well, it might be a bit late, but he’s finally here.

Wingard had a lot of that trademark burst of speed in his run tonight. His ability to accelerate away from the chaser was exactly the kind of play that earned him All-Australian honours in 2013 and 2015. Hawthorn fans haven’t exactly been patient with Wingard’s assimilation into their system, with many calling his acquisition a “bust”. I wonder if they’re still thinking that after tonight?

I fully believe that Hawthorn will receive the version of Wingard they want in 2020. He’s learned Clarkson’s system and has learnt his teammates’ preferences and styles. This takes time – very few recruits come in and set the world on fire immediately. He has become comfortable at the club, and with one more preseason under his belt with his teammates, I believe we’ll see a lot more of the form he displayed tonight going forward.

He finished with 27 touches, six clearances and six tackles in one his best performances as a Hawk to date.

 

AL CLARKSON

Credit where it’s due – without Clarko in the picture, and without his unmitigated joy at being able to experience something new with his team, this may have been a pretty mundane affair (much like the few romantic interludes Joe Ganino has had in his life to date).

Watching Clarkson laughing it up at quarter time as the snow fell, seeing him making a point of solidarity by wearing shorts, and seeing the footage of him running around, Vladamir Putin style with his top off yesterday give a great indication that he is still enjoying the art of coaching a group of young men, and has plenty left to give.

You know, I get that Clarko is a great coach. Some throw the word “genius” around a little too liberally for my liking, but Clarkson is about as close as you’ll get in AFL coaching. He’s been to the top of the mountain and back again several times and tonight he found a new challenge for himself, and for his team. You have to think that if the Hawks can retool  for next season with one or two acquisitions, and get Tom Mitchell healthy again, that Clarko’s time at the top of the mountain just may come again.

 

THE BAD

 

HOW MANY DOES MUMMY OWE THE GIANTS?

I’ve been wondering about this for a little while now – how undisciplined is Shane Mumford? And will it cost GWS in a big game. At half time he’d given away four free kicks and has given away a league-leading 57 free kicks this season – currently 18 more than the next best (worst?), Brodie Grundy.

At what point do the Giants coaching staff pull him aside and tell him to pull his head in? He’s not winning hit outs (he had 14 for the night), laid one tackle and, in short, did bugger all. I like the physical stuff, but if that is all Mumford can offer, I’m not sure he is providing value for the Giants.

He had eight clearances, which in a nutshell is a great result, but is he doing enough? And if not, how much is enough?

 

THE TOBY GREENE CALLS

As stated above, I am an unabashed Toby Greene fan, and what I saw tonight was something that only happens to three players in the league. It happens to Ben Cunnington, as he has garnered a reputation for belting blokes in the stomach this season. It happens to James Sicily because he’s James Sicily, and it happens to Toby Greene because he’s Toby Greene.

In the third quarter, believe it or not, the Giants were not completely out of the game. Sure, they were playing like shit. Sure, they looked like they would have rather stayed home and curled up on the couch, but they were still in the game, and a goal or two could have swung the momentum.

Those goals would never come.

Toby Greene took the ball about 30 metres out from goal at one stage, was taken high by James Worpel and taken to ground in a tackle. It was obviously high – the hand of Worpel almost grabbing him by the chin. There was no call, and it cost arguably the only player on the GWS team who looked like he could make a difference on the scoreboard the chance to do just that.

Greene wasn't happy, and he had every right to be annoyed. That anger was amplified seconds later when James Sicily sucked him in to pushing him, and took a bit of a dive in the process. The umpire blew the whistle and awarded the free kick to Sicily for what he termed “prohibited contact” which sounds like a complete netball term to me. Sicily took the free kick, the Hawks went end to end and kicked a goal.

People, this is a joke. If umpires, players, fans, little old ladies and even blind people don’t like Toby Greene, so be it, but to blatantly ignore head high contact on the bloke is just pathetic. Yeah the ump got the first one wrong, but the second one was a classic stitch up from Sicily and the ump fell for it! That was even worse because the ump didn’t just miss the play, he got completely fooled!

Hawthorn didn’t need charity to win this – they were the better team, but they got a fair bit of it tonight in the third quarter, and it was at the expense of Toby Greene. The umpires need to do a better job of ensuring the game is umpired to the highest standard, and that reputational free kicks are eradicated from the game.

Judge each play and each decision on its merits, please.

 

THE UGLY

 

WHO DECIDED THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?

So, we had a bit of a strange night here. Canberra in early August is cold. Canberra in early August at night is ridiculously cold. And to create a fixture where you have a Friday night game in early August in Canberra… well, it isn’t too bright, is it?

For what it’s worth, I thought the game was entertaining, but in scheduling this game, we got the snow falling in a game for the first time I can remember, and very little else.

This wasn't wise. I get that the fixture is done well in advance. I get that GWS deserves a home Friday night game here and there – they are a perennial finalist at the moment (though you wouldn’t know it) and they need to be marketed as such, but this’d be the sort of fixture you organise for March or April – not August.

Let’s hope the AFL takes notice of the conditions these blokes played in tonight. Yeah they call footy the winter game, but to have snow during a professional game when tomorrow, a fellow contender – Essendon will have the opportunity to play dry weather footy at Marvel Stadium – it doesn’t sit right with me.

 

WHO DECIDED THIS? PART TWO.

Hey guys, I have an idea – every time the home side kicks a goal, we’re going to play some shitty song that nobody knows through the loudspeakers. How does that sound?

If you’re at all similar to me, you’re probably not the demographic GWS was marketing to with that poppy bullshit they were pumping through their speakers at the stadium, but you know what? There’s an upside.

You see, there are plenty of players I like on the GWS team, and plenty I want to see do well, but I was actively barracking against them in this game due to the fact I didn’t want to hear that piped in garbage.

Luckily, GWS obliged by not kicking a goal after halftime to retain my sanity.

I reckon whoever has the power to stop the music after goals should exercise it. It’s not the NBA.

WHO DECIDED NOT TO SHOW UP?

You know, it was cold for both teams. Every person on that field looked a little chilly. Every person in attendance looked like they knew what they were in for.

And every person there, bar the ones wearing orange, white and charcoal prepared for it.

The Giants played as though only they were impacted by the cold temperatures, and as though only they were being made to play in adverse conditions. They registered the lowest score in the history of the club on the eve of a finals campaign.

It’s the wrong time of year to start turning in these performances.

 

QUICK BITS

What is happening with Adam Tomlinson? If there was ever a Nowhere Man in the AFL, I reckon it is this bloke. He is a key position sized bloke who is never played in a key position. I reckon he’d make a monstrous Centre Half Back. Was he on the wing tonight? I know he has an enormous tank and can probably run all day, but if I were him, I’d be out the door after this season. He’s a restricted free agent and I can’t see GWS wanting to match any offer that comes his way, particularly since it appears as though they have no clue how to use him.

Five minutes in and I was watching Jye Caldwell, wondering how GWS had managed to pluck another young star, but he tapered off pretty quickly after quarter time. At 18, he showed plenty early on, but will need to add a bit more to that tank in order to run games out.

Isaac Smith really came to the fore after a slow start in the first (two disposals) to finish with 28 for the game. If we completely discount that first quarter, Smith could have easily sat amongst the votes.

Righto Hawks fans – how can Jaeger O’Meara improve? I love his contested work, and even his defensive presence at stoppages, but he has to start getting a bit of the ball on the outside to utilise the lethal combination of his kicking skills and decision making. Whilst I love seeing him at the coal face, he needs an easy ball here or there so he can use it well. He finished running at just 28% disposal efficiency, which was up on his disastrous half time stats of 11 touches at 18% efficiency.

I’m not sure Jeremy Cameron has played a worse game in 2019 than what we saw tonight. Left to work without Himmelberg and Finlayson, he looked as though he would have preferred to be anywhere else. Beaten soundly on the night, first by Sicily and then by Frawley, Cameron had plenty of mates in the “disappointing” category.

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So, do teams know Luke Breust is either going to try to stand in a tackle, or fend it off? Isn’t it about time they learnt? The Hawks have the Suns next week – if Stewy Dew doesn’t ensure that a second tackler immediately attacks the body of Breust every time he takes possession, I swear, I will revoke his Maccas privileges for a week.

Great duel between Heath Shaw and Paul Puopolo tonight. Shaw finished with 23 touches and 11 rebound 50s, but his seven turnovers hurt the Giants. Puopolo could’ve finished with three goals, and his chasing and pressure are seemingly underrated, if the surprise from the commentators around his continued inclusion in the Hawthorn side are anything to go by. Try watching a game here and there instead of trying to talk over each other, and maybe you’ll see what he is actually in the team for. The goals are like a bonus.

Another high quality outing for Liam Shiels as he continues to compile a career that Hawthorn people will laud, but others will probably forget relatively quickly. He doesn’t court fanfare or publicity, but he led the game in clearances again this week (9) and gained 540 metres for the Hawks in their engine room once more.

Brett Deledio injured… if he can’t get back before the end of the home and away season, I reckon Lids might be cooked.

So next week – the Giants get the Bulldogs in what could turn out to be a blinder, whilst the hawks should win again as they play the Suns at marvel for some crazy reason.

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