“Efficient” is the perfect word to describe Hawthorn’s disposal of a rather dismal Collingwood outfit. The Hawks played disciplined football with the strength of their structures and their rabid pressure the highlights of the 34 point win.
The Hawks’ defence was solidified by returning incumbents James Frawley and Ben Stratton, who were the fulcrums for everything. At times the Pies found it impossible to break through and score. The Hawks were then brilliant in transition. Frawley was impassable at full back, locking down on the Pies’ big forwards and Stratton was very capable at filling the Luke Hodge role in defence as a marshal. He organised the defensive aspect while facilitating the rebound with his adept positioning of the individual defenders. James Sicily was once more very impressive in the zone off role as the free man in defence, where his reading of play and intercept marking was a standout.
It made the transition so effective, allowing the forward line to be very impressive. The re-jigged forward line was built around the footy smarts of Shaun Burgoyne and Jack Gunston. Both were pivotal in cleverly setting everything up and were well supported by all the other forwards playing their roles. It was pleasing to see Paul Puopolo go back to his hunger for the crucial one percenters as opposed to his dabbling with the sexiness of flying for speccies.
The only concern regarding the forward line was the absence of a contested marking option but it rarely became a factor with how the attack was structured and the reliance on the transitional nature of scoring.
In the midfield, the Hawks’ faithful got their first glimpse of the dynamic duo of Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara. Mitchell ran around free, racking up an astounding 54 disposals, breaking the VFL/AFL record. Mitchell carried many other players on his back by involving them in the play and O’Meara dazzled early with his ball winning and provided several glimpses of his genius from the past.
Best on Ground: Tom Mitchell-9.94 (Bradman–esque) – The worst case of leather poisoning in the game’s history with an outrageous 54 disposals, which is an AFL/VFL record.
2nd best, Shaun Burgoyne-9– He was instrumental early on with his goals and all round footy smarts and was a fire starter all match in the forward half.
3rd best, Ben Stratton-8.5– Was excellent. He anchored deep and was back to his reliable self as one of the game’s best defenders. He also organised the defensive structures as a defacto general.
Jack Gunston-8- So clever forward with everything he did being so decisive.
Jaeger O’Meara-7.5-Very good early with his ball winning, burst speed and spread, but faded late.
James Sicily-7.5- Really effective once more in the zone off role as the free man in defence with his reading of play and intercept marking a stand out.
Luke Breust-7.5- Always dangerous due to his high IQ as an instinctive small forward and ended up with 4 goals.
Paul Puopolo-7.5- Not as flashy as in the recent past, but back to playing in a style that is reminiscent of his best, when he was one of the top defensive forwards in the game.
James Frawley-7- The old style key backman was typically efficient. The only downside of his game was his kicking, the ball often being slow to get to team mates. It was accurate but not piercing, allowing possible turnovers.
Ben McEvoy-7- Big hearted as always in the ruck.
Isaac Smith-7- Typical display with his relentless running and drifting in transition to be dangerous forward.
Tim O’Brien-6- Played as a key defender on Reid and started slowly but got better as the game went on. From a structural sense this allowed Ryan Burton to be played more off the flank in a rebounding role.
Blake Hardwick-6- Competently played his role in defence.
Ryan Burton-6- Played more as a rebounding flanker with O’Brien taking his key back role from last year. Sadly injured in 2nd quarter.
Ricky Henderson-6- Played outside and was great drifting forward in transition where he kicked two goals.
Cyril Rioli-5- Looked under done, but his presence always created panic.
Jarryd Roughead-4- Played a fairly average game but failed to grab the marking opportunities he had playing forward.
Jarman Impey-4-He seemed nervous in his first game but got better after half time.
Liam Shiels-4- Largely quiet in his customary role as a defensive midfielder.
Daniel Howe-4-His kicking was pretty average in his role in the midfield.
Taylor Duryea-2- Played as a utility/defence and was largely ineffective. Duryea seems to lack the spatial awareness of what is directly around him which leads to errors.
Ryan Schoenmakers-2- Played largely forward and despite kicking one goal, was ineffective.
There’s a lot to like about this new look Hawthorn team. Bring on the Cats on Easter Monday!