Hawthorn suffered its first defeat for the 2018 season at the hands of reigning premiers and likely flag threats, Richmond. The main difference between the two teams was the effectiveness of their respective structures, commanded by their loose men in defence. The game was won and lost between the 50 metre arcs, with the potency of the defensive rebound, decision making and skill execution into each team’s attacking zones key to the outcome.
The Hawks failed to look up and continually bombed the ball into their forward 50, missing their forward line and, in turn, facilitating Richmond’s rebound. In contrast, the Tigers were astute when transitioning into attack with both their decision making and skill execution. The Hawks’ players’ poor decision to keep bombing the ball in highlighted the lack of depth of quality in their midfield. This was not helped by their attacking players, who lacked the necessary work rate to offer options to the players further afield who were in possession. This then carried over to contested duels in attack with the Hawks lacking a marking option. It was far too easy for Richmond’s big defenders to dominate in the air and set up their often lethal defensive rebound.
Lastly, missed tackles killed the Hawks throughout.
The poor performance can partially be attributed to the selection process, with the list of 22 containing too many defensive talls against a Richmond forward line known for its largely small demeanour. Add to this the inevitable decision to send Jack Gunston back to replace the zone off effect of the missing James Sicily in defence. The impact of this restructuring was most felt forward with the absence of Shaun Burgoyne. It deprived the team of the quarterback influence of Gunston and Burgoyne, who, with their footy smarts, were prominent in Hawthorn’s successful attack during the first two weeks. The use of ‘dumb footy’ by the Hawks rendered their forward line moot, with their entries playing right into one of Richmond’s main strengths, its defensive rebound.
In defence of the performance, James Sicily and Shaun Burgoyne were key outs for the Hawks and their much shorter break, compared to Richmond’s longer break, was further compounded by the taxing hot weather. The rub in this, from the big picture viewpoint of considering a possible return to the finals, was the team’s depth. There was a consistency of quality throughout Richmond’s 22 players as opposed to 3-6 players in the Hawks’ team who were very exploitable and largely ineffective.
Tom Mitchell-8- Prolific as always but not as definitive as the first two games.
Jarryd Roughead-8- Very good with 4 goals.
Ben McEvoy-7.5- A solid performance in the ruck.
Jaeger O’Meara- 7- Won the ball but failed to really impact.
Daniel Howe-7- One of the better performers in the midfield.
Paul Puopolo- 6.5- He was the best of the small forwards.
Ben Stratton- 6- Solid as a defensive marker.
Ricky Henderson- 6- Was OK, but lacked the effectiveness on the outside whilst transitioning into attack that was shown during the first 2 games.
Isaac Smith-6- Sitting deeper on the square to facilitate a rebound and was just OK.
Jack Gunston-6- Took Sicily’s zone off role in defence and was OK but lacked the influence of Richmond’s loose men in defence.
Harry Morrison-6- Neat and tidy and should be persisted with.
Luke Breust-5- He kicked three goals but needed to work harder in providing options for players transitioning from defence to attack.
Liam Shiels-5- Pretty disappointing game.
Blake Hardwick- 4- Neither good nor bad, which resulted in a ‘below pass’ mark for he failed to impact in any way as a rebounding defender.
Ryan Burton- 3- Burton’s disappointing start to 2018 continued. He is a youngster of rare class and his performances can only be attributed to lingering injuries.
Kaiden Brand- 3- This game exposed Brand’s limitations as a defender. He is capable at playing on tall players, but all at sea against any mobile types.
Jarman Impey-3- He was largely average and, like most of the other small forwards, needed to work harder.
Cyril Rioli-2- Started in the guts rotating forward and was very average.
James Frawley-2- Very disappointing with him failing to have an impact in defence. He is capable of playing on all types of forwards due to his pace but his ‘hailing a bus’ antics early in the game, whilst small attackers took uncontested marks defined his performance.
Taylor Duryea-0- The poster child for the club’s lack of depth.
Will Langford-0- He was obviously brought in to limit Richmond’s defensive rebound but was a non contributor.
Tim O’Brien-0- Played forward and was dismal, with the standout his failure to contest.
1. It was Hawthorn’s highest last quarter score (5.3.33) in a losing match since round 20 2002 which was also against Richmond.
2. Tom Mitchell becomes only the second player in history to have 40 or more disposals in three consecutive games, since Gary Ablett did it also in rounds 1,2 and 3 of season 2012 (However Ablett also had 43 disposals in round 24 of 2011, so had 4 consecutive 40 possession games). Mitchell had 44 possessions in the second last round last season, but dropped off the pace with a paltry 32 possessions in round 23 last season. If he gets 40 or more against Melbourne he becomes the first man to achieve this feat in 4 consecutive rounds in the same season.
3. Tom Mitchell has the highest disposal count after three rounds ever. His three-round total disposals of 136 eclipses Gary Ablett analogous total of 127 in 2012.