As an old time Hawthorn fan with long memories of our bitter rivalry with hated foes Carlton, it is never pleasant to lose to the Blues.
Having said that, one has to dip their hat to Carlton’s fine display which led to their 7 point victory, which came as the result of genius coach Alistair Clarkson being out-coached by one of his many apprentices, Brendan Bolton.
Bolton’s astute tactics dismantled Hawthorn’s 8/4 structure that has been pivotal in the teams’ turn around in fortunes. Hawthorn’s two loose back men were never allowed the freedom which has seen them dominate in recent weeks. The Blues’ defensive markers had a profound influence, limiting the Hawks’ lethal rebounders and preventing them from making an impact on the scoreboard.
James Sicily, who has been the architect in the zone off role, was the main target. Jed Lamb tagged him tightly and preyed on his suspect’s mindset which caused the incendiary Sicily to implode. The disappointing aspect was Sicily’s attitude. After dominating in recent weeks at defensive intercept marking and with his scything rebound, he failed to deal with the increased attention that was bound to come.
It was interesting watching Clarkson persist with Sicily, despite him becoming obviously unhinged. Perhaps Clarko was wanting to look to the future and get a feel for how Sicily handles such tactics. The white flag was raised when Sicily was moved to the forward line at the three quarter break. We again saw him completely lose the plot by showing little respect to senior team mates who tried to calm him.
With the ‘General’ Luke Hodge a game away from retiring, it was disheartening to think how much his presence will be missed. The fracturing of the defence was key to the teams’ failure. This rendered any attack impotent due to the lack of fast and decisive rebound from the back half.
The other aspect was the lack of bite in the forward line. Jack Gunston’s move to defence has been a startling success. But his absence from the forward line has been telling. The rest of the options in attack were very disappointing. Hawthorn lacked the work rate to provide valid scoring options. It is wrong to have an individual focus, but after a hard working display last week which was a throwback to his premiership form, Luke Breust was back to frustrating the fans by choosing to lurk out the back in the hope of cheap goals.
The over reliance on manufactured goals stood out and this game brought into focus the need for more structured goals. This issue will be helped by Cyril Rioli returning next year but the team desperately needs a good contested marking target. Food for thought might be playing Ben McEvoy in more of a David Hale type role from 2018 onward as he is an excellent contested mark as well as a very straight kick.
There were few heroes in this very disappointing display with Tom Mitchell being one of the few stand outs. The Irishman Conor Glass also showed he has more strings to his bow. He was excellent when marking the Blues’ young phenom Charlie Curnow one out in defence. His dexterity in the contested dual showed he could be equally adept as a lock down defender as well as a blitzing rebounder. Glass’ ability to limit the 194cm strong marking Curnow would not have been lost on the coaches.
All in all it was a very disappointing display by Hawthorn. But it will be a marquee event to look forward to next week at a packed Etihad as the Hawks take on the Western Bulldogs in what will be the last game for legend Luke Hodge.
Let us all send him off in appropriate fashion!