Round 1 – Hawthorn v Collingwood: That Round 1 Hope

It’s a rejuvenating feeling, that Round 1 hope.

From a week or two before it you suddenly realise; footy is just around the corner. You sit and watch the other opening round games, with excitement yet bated breath at what your team will produce. In 2018, I eagerly wait for a Saturday night fixture against Hawthorn to see just what Bucks has made of our rag tag bunch of infantry.

The questions arise pre-game- how will new recruit Sam Murray be? Will our backline stand up without Tyson Goldsack? Is there a possibility that our forward line will ever improve while Mason Cox stands awkwardly, head and shoulders above all around him?

Unfortunately, by half time I could only say yes to one, and that was the spark of Murray. And by the end of the game the other two were desolate no’s, leaving me bereft of all optimism for season 2018 as I shuffled bereft out of the Ponsford Stand with many a frustrated one-eyed Pie.

The start was clean – Reid goaling within a minute helped. But before long the smooth machine of Burgoyne, Breust and Gunston all showed us that they were back. The hope began to slightly decrease. Yet our young and largely undersized outfit appeared plucky, as we were able to remain in touching distance at the first break thanks to majors from Howe and Crocker.

A rhythm began to seep into the match – Collingwood would obtain the ball from the middle, hold possession and exert maximum effort. After large amounts of time a goal would be scratched out, from luck or a series of errors. Or a shocking turnover would be pounced on by the sleek Hawks who would enforce experience in transferring it to the other end for a comparably easy goal. The main constant in all of these plays would be Tom Mitchell, with his hand nursing and guiding the ball whenever one would look at the match. By half time the dam wall had burst, and the Pies scurried off the MCG for the cleaner and more efficient Auskick kids 27 points down.

For Hawthorn it only got better, with immense improvement shown throughout the one-sided third term. Smith kept on galloping past seemingly stationary Magpies. O’Meara kept on breaking tackles and brutally enforcing his own. Cox continued to drop uncontested marks in now-arid conditions. And my god, Mitchell kept on getting the footy. Combine this with Breust’s dangerous forward presence and Rioli bursts of class and Pies fans were ready to throw in the towel on not just the players, but the stony stare of Buckley in the coaches’ box.

Even with Hawthorn being one player down courtesy of Burton’s nasty looking ACL injury, there would be no true Collingwood comeback. Two quick goals to begin the last term briefly inspired wild fantasies, yet this would only provide a brief smoothing over of the glaring cracks. Moore finally got moved forward from his experiment (and no I’m not just talking about his horrific hair), showing his other forwards bar Crocker how to lead at the footy instead of pointing to the sky in a hopeless dream of out marking ruthless Hawks defenders. But this wouldn’t cover Cox’s nightmare, Pendlebury’s errors, Smith’s inability that mirrors Jarryd Blair’s last few seasons. Nor could it ever fix the lack of structure and efficient ball movement that meant that the ball could never properly leave the back line, or reach the forward line, unless some fluke act would allow the Sherrin to make an unlucky bounce into an unaware Pies’ hands. Even then, this moment of disbelief would inevitably result in them fumbling a ball that appeared to fit snugly in the palms of Hawthorn players.

By the final siren, half of the 58,000 people who filled the MCG slouched dispiritedly, while the others enjoyed a lukewarm and smug rendition of their theme song, content with the idea that the genius of Clarkson had immediately returned them to a powerful force. It seemed to be a return to normal after last year’s rusty start – Breust popped up with a casual 4 majors, Burgoyne and Gunston both scored a brace, while Sicily mirrored Josh Gibson in his ability to sweep through the half back line and constantly get to aerial contests. And then there was Mitchell, breaking the record of touches in a grand display of how to independently win the ball with strength and smarts.

For Collingwood, Sam Murray could hold his head high after an impressive initial display. His bursts of pace, courage to take on the game and consistency in providing a contest against dangerous forwards outlined accountability that lacked the other 21 black and white jumpers. Other than him, a miracle is the only act that can prevent another inconsistent performance that would inevitably result in a routine shellacking by the rampant Giants next Saturday. But what the heck, I’ll still be there anyway. There’s only one Collingwood.

HAWTHORN 4.4 10.7 13.9 15.11 (101)
COLLINGWOOD 3.4 6.4 7.6 9.13 (67)
GOALS
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Burgoyne 2, Gunston 2, Henderson 2, Smith, Shiels, Rioli, Schoenmakers, Roughead
Collingwood: Crocker 2, Reid, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott, Sidebottom, Aish, Moore, Thomas
BEST
Hawthorn: Mitchell, O’Meara, Smith, Sicily, Burgoyne
Collingwood: Murray, Sidebottom, Crocker, Treloar

CROWD
58,051

Comments

  1. Rick Kane says:

    I feel your pain Sean even though I was singing the song with the happy team. Yes, the Hawks had some outstanding players but what was pleasing to this fan was the work of Howe, Henderson, Hardwick, Duryea, new recruit Impey and my fave Hawk, Shiels.

    Not sure what the Pies can do. I went to the game with Pies fans and they were dumbfounded at the lack of anything different from last year.

    Cheers

  2. The Pies improved significantly last year when Elliott came back, but if/when he does it still won’t be enough to remedy the Pies general lack of goal-kicking ability and lack of structure. Whilst the Pies had plenty of possession in the second half, a return of 3.9 is symptomatic of their finishing skills. The difference between the Pies and Hawks in field position and ball movement was stark. But it is only round 1, right?

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