Throughout Alastair Clarkson’s tenure as Hawthorn coach he has embraced the ‘Pagan’s Paddock’ tactic in various stages and in various forms. This came to fame during Wayne Carey’s era at North Melbourne in the late 1990’s where the coach of the time, Denis Pagan would clear out the attacking forward 50 to give the man known as ‘The King’ sole ownership to wreak havoc.
The season opener for the Hawks against Collingwood next Saturday night is the perfect opportunity for Clarkson to revisit this. Although the Pies often win plenty of possessions, they rarely use them to advantage and worse, they frequently butcher them. This gives rise to a new sentiment, that sometimes having the opposition in possession can actually be an advantage, due to the likelihood of them turning it over and getting killed on the rebound. The Hawks can exploit Collingwood’s weakness in this regard, by structuring to apply pressure on the Pies’ forward line when their midfielders win possession.
I would choose the following 22 players and structure:
B: James Frawley, Ben Stratton
Free: James Sicily
HB: Ryan Burton, Conor Glass, Blake Hardwick, Shaun Burgoyne,
W: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Liam Shiels
HF: Jarman Impey, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo
FF: Cyril Rioli
R: Ben McEvoy, Jarryd Roughead, Jaeger O’Meara
Int: Daniel Howe, James Cousins, Kieran Lovell, Tim O’Brien.
This is 7 players strong, highlighted by a free man and anchored by two markers in lock down roles; James Frawley on the tallest forward and Ben Stratton matched up on the most dangerous small or midsized attacker. James Sicily should float in the crucial zone off role to support the two lock down defenders with spoiling and intercept marking as well as commanding the rebound, acting as the first link in the chain. The other 4 defenders should sit high in defence between the 50 arc and centre square, responsible for their direct forward but getting on their bikes when the team is in possession, to set the rebound alight and to punish the Pies in transition.
I was torn over whether to play Burgoyne in attack, where he was very impressive against the Blues in the last JLT game. The other standout from that game was that the predominantly young defence lacked marshalling from a wise head, which makes me think it is wiser to use Burgoyne in this role at half back.
Playing Jarryd Roughead in the ruck rover position will no doubt raise some eyebrows. My reasoning behind this choice is to capitalise on his size to help facilitate clearances for his smaller team mates as well as utilise his own dexterity in winning the ball in the clinches. He can also be rotated in the midfield and float high in attack.
The temptation is to assign a defensive role to Howe in the midfield. In most games against Collingwood, Clarkson sits someone on Steele Sidebottom, but I would be more inclined to mark Scott Pendlebury, who is the most dangerous entity in the Pies’ engine room. I would resist this and instead go head to head in the midfield by backing the likes of Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara to hold sway whilst using Howe as part of the rotations off the bench. The naming of young midfielders James Cousins and Kieran Lovell, who was prolific in Box Hill’s practice match at Casey Fields against the Casey Demons on Saturday, pays respect to the Pies’ noted midfield strength by reinforcing the rotations.
The Forward Line
The 5 man forward setup is inextricably linked with the defence due to the half forward line operating in high roles to flood into defence when the opposition is attacking and then aid in transition. Jack Gunston is highly capable in a roaming role into defence and at linking in transition, where he gets lost floating into attack. Impey is a blitzing presence that can break through the likely defensive press with his pace. Both Puopolo and Breust are clever at getting out the back and in close to goal in the ‘Paddock’ structure.
I would sit Rioli deep in the ‘Paddock’.
The forward attacking setup is predominantly small to negate the Pies’ strength in the key defensive posts, such as Collingwood’s Jeremy Howe, who is a strong player, noted for his skill at intercept marking and limiting of opposition attacks. If the Hawks play to the tactics inherent in this structure, it negates the effect of defenders such as Howe, for they have no matchups as well as being stifled by the ensuing chaos.
Lastly, I would select Tim O’Brien in the 22 as the second ruck and as a contested marking threat when forward.