By Paul Taylor
Another game against the Hawks and another loss. After a bright opening and a spirited end to the second quarter we couldn’t maintain the rage and were gradually overcome by a very talented Hawthorn team.
The first quarter started in a frenetic pace with Hawthorn’s mids, particularly Sewell, Smith and Lewis pumping the ball forward into a dangerous front half. Forwards such as Breust, Gunston and Whitecross looked dangerous. We struggled to stay with them. Fortunately Hale kept us in it by missing some easy shots. It looked like a step up in class for our small backs Marley and Benny Sinclair. Keefe started on Franklin and did a reasonable job. He has been a real positive for us in the back end to the season. At our end Travis looked seriously dangerous and if he had kicked straight would have had three in the first quarter. Luke Ball as industrious as ever kept centring the ball to our advantage. I thought we finished the quarter with all the running which was a positive sign.
The second quarter began in a similar fashion to the first with the Hawks threatening to take the game away from us. Rioli was breathtaking and set up several goals. Shaw somehow found himself on Franklin which inevitably led to a couple of soft free kicks. Is there a more annoying bloke than Franklin playing footy? Can’t think of many. But just as the game appeared to be going from us we found something and hit back with goals at the end of the quarter. It was stirring stuff with Caff ruffing up Mitchell and big Brodie and the mids driving us forward. Again I thought we finished the half with all the momentum.
Unfortunately the stirring end to the half had dissipated by the time the third began. The hawks strangled us across half forward. I lost count how often we bombed it forward straight to Hodge or Gibson. Poor Lynchy looked like a fridge and was easy picking for Hodge and co. I was disappointed that Bucks kept this forward structure for much of the game. Geelong always use a tall running player on Hodge to keep him honest. Our other half forwards Blair and Thomas tried hard but couldn’t match the smarts of their opponents. It didn’t help that we butchered the ball going forward. Even Sidey sprayed some basic entries into our attacking zone. At the other end our defence held up okay. Keefe was keeping Franklin honest and Nathan Brown was swamping Roughead when he ventured forward. Unfortunately Goldsack had a Heath Shaw moment kicking out and inexplicably found Franklin on his own 30 metres out. He was never going to miss!
The fourth stanza mirrored the first half. The Hawks crept out to a reasonable lead before we regained the momentum and kicked a couple of goals. We just didn’t have enough polish to capitalise on some of the opportunities that we had which could have brought the margin below three goals. A very soft free to Mitchell against Caff stalled our charge a bit and the Hawks steadied and kicked the last couple. Big Brodie, J Thomas, Harry, Marley and Swanny were pivotal to our last quarter efforts. In fact at no stage could you question our endeavour- we were just up against a very good team.
So where does this leave us? Fifth to seventh is about right for us this season. But there is much to be optimistic about. Brodie Grundy has been a find and should form a great partnership with Witts going forward. Keefe is already a solid key back and will get stronger. Marley and Benny Sinclair have rid us of the small forward affliction and Seedsman and Oxley will join the back six more permanently next season. Toovs will also be back- he would have been very handy last night.
Our front half needs more attention. I’m not convinced that Lynch is the answer. We need to include both Glodsack and Reid up forward I think to really trouble defences such as Hawthorn. This coupled with smalls such as Kennedy, Blair and Elliot would make us more threatening. The additions of Dale Thomas and Fasolo could make for a very dangerous front six. Broomhead might be another to add to this list. He looks a smart and capable player. Our mids are fine- if they can all stay fit!
Now for West Coast and the Kangas, two inconsistent but very good teams that may trouble us with their run and big forwards. If we can overcome them then we might be able to snag a final or two. But the reality is we are a bottom of the eight team this year. Next year and the year beyond however look brighter.