Hawks feel the need…the need for speed

The Tigers ending a 37 year premiership drought would have seen Hawthorn’s list management committee with their heads in their hands. It was a victory created by the Richmond think tank’s brilliant use of its abundant pace.

Richmond’s ravenous horde of pacey defensive forwards were the stand out. They served a pivotal dual purpose. In attack, they were responsible for setting up many 2nd and 3rd chance goals. These opportunities were created from the unyielding and relentless pressure they put on opponents. Secondly, their pressure when not in possession stifled the Crows’ ball movement and allowed the Richmond midfield and defence to easily mop up any Crows’ attacks that broke free. The game in this era has a strong emphasis on rebound from defence to facilitate teams attacks. The Tigers rendered the Crows lauded reputation in this aspect of the game null and void.

The speed didn’t cease merely with the Tigers’ ‘mosquito fleet.’ It was evident throughout their 22. The completeness of their fast paced list was a defining aspect of their success. There was not only an abundance of burst speed, as highlighted by the defensive forwards, but also a prevalence of power runners which was the fulcrum of their remarkable success.

Running to position off the ball in support is often lost in the game, but the Tigers’ gut running was elite. This allowed them to transition the ball from crowded inside situations to freedom on the outside, an ability that made them lethal on the spread. They constantly set up space, a factor the Crows had no answer to and were consequently sliced to ribbons.

The AFL is a very reactionary industry, which on the evidence of the Tigers’ blueprint for success will put a real premium on pace along with players with noted ‘tanks.’

After a season where Hawthorn’s lack of pace was a key part of its struggles, this represents a real road block in any attempt to rise from 2018 onwards.

Hawthorn has been linked with the speedy Jarman Impey from Port Adelaide, if rumours are to believed. Impey has indicated that Hawthorn is his preferred club. Also on the Hawks radar is Andrew Gaff from the West Coast Eagles. While not as yet rumored, the club would be wise to chase Adam Saad from the Suns. The blitzing defensive rebounder has made known his desire to return to Victoria.

Any would be ideal. Two of the three should be the focus.

The Hawks weak standing from a trade viewpoint instantly raises the question of ‘how’. The Tigers’ success makes it a seller’s market for any club looking to trade players with any evidence of pace, or sustained run. Hawthorn’s first pick in the upcoming draft is 32. The aforementioned trio in the current climate would certainly dictate as follows:

Jaman Impey- mid second round pick. Or a 20-25 list rated player.

Andrew Gaff- mid to late first round pick. Or, a 10-15 list rated player

Adam Saad- late first round to early second round pick. Or, a 15-20 list rated player.

In estimating the likely cost and attaching a premium to speed, the flip side is how Hawthorn can also exploit this climate.

Billy Hartung and Paul Puopolo become real chess pieces. Hartung exudes both speed and endurance. Despite the club having a real need for both qualities they would be willing to part with Hartung on the back of him being largely frustrating at the AFL level. His stand out flaw is not having the football smarts, or adequate reading of the game to utilise his better qualities. Rather than set up smart play by knowing when and where to run when not in possession or line break with bursts when in possession, he mirrors a dog chasing its tail.

Hartung’s limitations are obvious. Despite this, another club could be enamoured with his qualities and the fact he is still young at 22. They could be persuaded to offer a late 2nd round pick.

Puopolo is an interesting case. He is one of the best small pressuring forwards in the game. What goes against him is his age. The other concern is he has shown his pedigree in some very strong Hawthorn teams, only to struggle conspicuously when the club has waned of late. The club is in an era of transition and he would represent greater value if he could be used to gain a valuable draft pick. He would be coveted by a contending club needing a small pressuring forward such as Greater Western Sydney. This could yield an early 2nd round pick.

Will Langford is also an interesting floater. Most fans would tout his name for trade, way before any mention of Puopolo. The club’s show of faith in Langford is based on his influence in our turnaround in 2017. When placed in the defensive forward role, he showed signs of being a defining influence. His burst speed made his pressuring acts elite. The main downside was his inability to make the most of opportunities in attack. His abysmal set shots for goal have been costly to the team.

At 25, faith needs to be shown in Langford and the club being able to rectify this issue. If it is fixed, Langford’s value to a young team would be immense.

If these deals came to fruition they would give the club the means to nab Impey and Saad.

The chase for Andrew Gaff is more problematic. His signature would rely on the use of a valued player(s) due to the club’s absence of high draft picks. It certainly brings into focus how ill advised the club was in using their first round selection for 2017 as a means to seal the Jaeger O’Meara trade at the end of 2016. No doubt O’Meara will be a star, but trading another player would have been a better way to finalise that transaction.

An interesting name to offer up would be Ben Stratton. The re-invented backline in the second half of this season gives this idea credence. He is an elite marking backman that is capable on all types of forwards. He could bring in a late first round pick that could be used in a package to gain Gaff.

The club would ideally like to keep a respected player such as Stratton, but the reality is that you need to give something of value to receive similar. This needs to be embraced on the back of the club needing to address its obvious need for speed.

If it does not, a similar absence from the finals in 2018 is likely.

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Author: tholtsports

I am a complete sports nut that loves watching and then representing my passion in words.

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