AFL Round 2 – West Coast v Hawthorn: Jeff Was Right

I don’t write defeats.  Sure one loss at home each year to the Swans, but they became the premiers.  One modest home loss ensures I maintain a modicum of humility.  What was Cookie thinking, forcing me to write up this crap?  Who does he think I am, Mark Neeld?  Sorry, that’s next week.

After today’s humiliation it’s time to channel my inner Jeff Kennett.  After all a decent spray did wonders for the Hawks this week.

So here’s a brief summary of the game.  It was hot – 32°- too hot for football.  The Hawks were sublimely skilful and classy all day.  The Eagles were somewhere between scrappy and clueless.  We worked hard but our skills are poor and the midfield is slow.  It was the performance of a 10th or 12th ranked team, not a serious finals contender.

We held the Hawks for the first 15 minutes in a tight opening, then the floodgate opened with the Hawks kicking 8 goals in a row.  Midway through the second quarter I wrote ‘desultory’ in the margin of my Record.  The weather was sultry and our prospects were desolate.  We were looking like clueless European explorers stumbling around the desert, when unexpectedly we found water.  Cox lifted, Priddis worked miracles at the clearances and Kennedy took some strong marks.  We kicked 5 goals in 10 minutes and all of a sudden we were only 3 behind.  But the Hawks resumed normal service to kick the last 2 of the quarter (late goals before half time are the most predictive marker in footy – think Cats on Easter Monday).  We were 26 points behind, but on the balance of play it could have been double that.

The third quarter told the same story.  The Hawks kicked the first 2 to go well clear again, but we rallied and the quarter was an arm wrestle with the Hawks lead reduced to 19 points at the last break.  I knew we didn’t deserve to be in it, but a dying man will clutch at any promise of life.  I reassured the Avenging Eagle that the Hawks had run out of legs, and we would now run all over the top of them in the heat of the last quarter.

I rushed to take the Eagles/Julia Gillard double but unfortunately the market had closed.  The last quarter was a shambles with the Hawks outscoring us by 8 goals to 3, and running out 50 point winners.  The blazing western sun was setting unpleasantly into our faces, but it generously blinded us to the humiliation unfolding out on the oval.

It was the Eagles worst performance of the last 3 seasons, by a considerable margin.  So where are we at?

Sure we have injuries but we coped with that last season.  Naitanui’s eventual return will make a huge difference with his athleticism and presence, but he would need to.  Cox toiled hard all day, but breaking even with Bailey and Hale is not the performance of an elite ruckmen.  He will be formidable rucking a third of a game and providing a target up forward when Naitanui returns.  But at 31 years of age his best days are behind him.  Ditto with Embley and Adam Selwood who battle manfully, but their reactions are slow and their disposal erratic.  Neither give up but their places are only guaranteed by the lack of quality youngsters pushing up.

Three of our most promising young players are hopelessly out of form.  Will Schofield looks like Jesus (he even posed in white robes for Easter on Facebook – doh**##!!).  If he has any miracles left for the blind and lame, I suggest he self-administer.  Jack Darling is my favourite having exceeded all expectations in his first 2 seasons.  I have predicted he will be the next Carey.  But on the evidence of the first two rounds that is Illywhacker not Wayne.  The most disappointing is Luke Shuey.  Two years ago the Victorian judges robbed him of the Rising Star, giving it to some undeserving moptop called Heppell.  (It appears that Skip is not the only Victorian who is a good judge).  Shuey has brilliant pace and skills, but without the protection of Kerr he cops the main tag and seems unable to cope with the attention.

Time to man up, boys.

Now for the tricky part.  Woosh – I know I sacked you 3 years ago – but now is not the time to prove me right.  First thing, tactics.  I know that as a straight ahead, knock ‘em down defender, you don’t believe in fancy tactics and game plans.  You just keep running into blokes until one of you stops getting up.  But please, Hurn and Gaff are two of our best attacking options and about the only ones who can hit the side of a barn with a hand full of wheat.  Guess what, opposition coaches worked this out half way through last season.  They regularly cop run-with taggers.  Do we have a Plan B for how to use them or free them up?

Second thing, skills.  What do you blokes do in the off season?  Exhibit A – Scott Selwood.  Hardest working bloke in a hard working side, but rarely threatens oppositions by hand or foot.  Our forwards check their health insurance cover any time they have to stand under one of his ‘passes’.   He has a lot of friends – Masten, Sheppard, Cripps – all lack penetration and awareness with their disposals.

Now put Kerr, Wellingham, Rosa and LeCras back into the midfield/forward mix and it is a different look.  Not an elite midfield, but what we lack in quality we do make up for with quantity.  Harder for oppositions to run tags when we have a spread of threats.

So the team that ran around today would finish 9th or 10th.  Given Naitanui and most of our midfield back, we would be a 4th or 5th contender again.  But to be a serious threat we really need Darling, Shuey and Schofield to realise their potential sooner rather than later.  And we need Woosha to find a way to free up Hurn and Gaff’s attacking flair, and perhaps even develop a match plan based on more than Lord Raglan’s full frontal Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Good News – Priddis is astonishing at the base of packs and he is surprisingly effective by hand or foot with his awkward chips forward.  He won 16 clearances today.  The BOG Sam Mitchell won 7 – but he had allies.  Priddis was Horatio guarding the Bridge.

Glass, Waters and Butler were solid at the back.  Kennedy and Hill were always dangerous on those rare occasions when the ball went forward (the Hawks had 62 forward entries to our 37).  Nuff said.  Callum Sinclair made a solid debut as Cox’s backup ruckman.  He can’t keep his place beyond Naitanui’s return, but he looks a ready-made replacement for Cox in a year or two.

All I can say about the Hawks is that I have rarely seen a better drilled or more skilful side.  I spent a lot of time simply admiring the sweep of their play as they turned a contested ball into a forward drive.  One man goes to the contest and the rest seem to spread 5 metres all sides of the contest where they will be reliably hit by a bullet handball or chip kick.  They run to position in a way that suggests they are thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead.  For much of the game the Eagles looked like the over eager contestants in a conjuring show, always grasping for the jewel just as the magician made the parcel elegantly disappear.

Schoenmakers is looking a more confident key defender and Bailey looked like a more than capable ruckman.  Bradley Hill is a work in progress, but the Hawks can afford to indulge him with a season’s work experience.  Hodge was a calming influence at the back on his return from injury.  Like Bartel his sublime judgement will compensate for his declining speed.

The only lingering weaknesses that I could see were missing a series of easy set shots when the game was in the balance either side of 3 quarter time.  September ghosts??  The other is Buddy.  He is the odd man out in a well drilled team.  Look he kicked 5 goals, so what is there to complain about?  But he marches to his own drummer; his own tactics and his own game plan.  He looks totally uncoachable.  The Hawks are a 21 man team plus Buddy.  He will win a lot of games off his own boot, but he will lose a few too with his self absorption and waywardness.

I reckon Clarkson would like to trade him – but only to rugby union.

Jeff was right about the coach running out of ideas and needing to refresh and make some changes.  He just got the week wrong.

WEST COAST      1.3          6.6          12.6        15.8 (98)
HAWTHORN      6.1          11.2        15.7        23.10 (148)

GOALS
West Coast:
Kennedy 5, J Hill 3, Darling 3, Cripps, Embley, Sinclair, Gaff
Hawthorn: Rioli 4, Franklin 4, Breust 4, Roughead 2, Birchall 2, Hale 2, B Hill 2, Burgoyne, Smith

BEST
West Coast:
Priddis, Kennedy, Hill, Masten, Waters, Glass
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Birchall, Hodge, Rioli, Schoenmakers, Gibson, Breust

Umpires: Margetts, Dalgleish, Rosebury

Official crowd: 38,389 at Patersons Stadium

Malarkey Votes: Mitchell (Hawthorn) 3; Birchall (Hawthorn) 2; Hodge (Hawthorn) 1

 

Comments

  1. “The Hawks are a 21 man team plus Buddy. He will win a lot of games off his own boot, but he will lose a few too with his self absorption and waywardness.

    I reckon Clarkson would like to trade him – but only to rugby union.”

    Great lines Pete

  2. The Wrap says:

    It hasn’t taken them long to turn on the coach over there in the State of Excitement, has it. Or the team, eh? Two games in and the whhels have fallen off the Bandwagon.

    But seriously Mr B, how bad is the situation over there? We’re hearing rumours – and I know they’re only rumours – that Nick Gnat Nui has gone off then rails. Any truth to the rumour?

    Liked your insight to Sunday’s woeful performance. Even with the quarter half gone and a five goal lead, Hawthorn fans were saying The Hawks are out on their feet – we need at least one more goal. I think they slammed on another four just to make sure of it. So, with a danger game coming up against The Demons on the rebound, who do I tip next week? It’s an away game remember.

  3. Peter_B says:

    Mr Wrap – you will be hearing from our lawyers at Soo, Grabbit and Flea. As I said in my quarterly update to shareholders, Eagle Inc is experiencing temporary kick flow deficiencies. But the underperforming assets have been identified, and all shareholders will be paid in full with a substantial dividend.
    Your allegations regarding Mr Naitanui are particularly scurrilous. He is 3 times winner of the Mrs Joyful Prize for raffia work. He is using his injury recovery period to return to his Fijian homeland on a scouting mission. While there he is single handedly building an extra wing on the Ben Cousins Home for Lost Girls.
    You have been warned.

  4. Lord Bogan says:

    PB,

    Woosha’s record of 1 flag in 11 years has a Malthousian look about it. Time for a change, maybe?

  5. A great article Peter. My Hawks won much to my relief but the Eagles would have disappointed many a tipster. Buddy seems to be frustrating everyone except Hawthorn supporters. He kicks 5-1 and still gets a verbal bashing. Love it!

  6. aussie80s says:

    A great read, great insights, great analogies, great humility, great humour, great analysis. I almost felt like I was there but rejoicing rather than despairing at the events unfolding.

    Us Hawks rarely ever win outside of Victoria, particularly on those hot desert plains masquerading as football grounds out west – only had about 2 wins there since Dermott left for Sydney about 20 years ago.

    This entry should be the Almanac entry for this game. I doubt a Hawthorn writer could have better structured the review.

  7. nathan jarvis says:

    Yes, yes, that Franklin chap needs to be reined in. I too have been reading Ms Wilson and it would seem he is A Law Unto Himself. He *must* be stopped.

    The best part about Hurn being neutered is that for two years running Ross Lyon has completely ignored Hurn in the preseason comp. You imagine the WC coaches get all giddy watching Shannon run free and unleashing all those NAB Cup bombs – “Woo-hoo, Plan A is looking good!”

    (Plan B being, of course, “Switch Adam Hunter”.)

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