Round 3 – Richmond v Hawthorn: The Hawks keep hanging around

by John Green

 

Hawthorn is like a hammy vaudeville actor who refuses to die after being pierced by a rapier. The thespian staggers around the stage, upsets props and delivers an inspiring speech as he slowly expires. His fellow performers are forced to wait until he draws his final breath. The Hawks should take their three-peat premiership memorabilia with them and shuffle to the back of the line. Alastair Clarkson’s audacious plan to revitalise his stocks by moving Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis on was fraught with danger. Yet the news of Hawthorn’s demise and its inevitable descent to the bottom reaches of the ladder could have been a trifle premature. The Hawks have started the season with stirring victories over Collingwood and Geelong.

 

For Richmond’s clash with Hawthorn today the absence of Caddy, Prestia and Rioli has been offset by Hawthorn’s missing trio of Burgoyne, Schoenmakers and the suspended James Sicily.

 

The balmy autumn sunshine is a reminder of springtime finals campaigns. Not so long ago for Hawthorn, either, with their most recent flag in 2015. Richmond’s pressure is back after being misplaced somewhere before the border crossing into South Australia last weekend. They capitalise on the resulting Hawthorn turnovers. The Tigers appear to have a clear edge in speed as they move the ball both through the corridor and out wide. Many of Hawthorn’s forward thrusts end harmlessly in the safe hands of Rance and Astbury. Yet the Hawks are well in the contest and attempt to apply some muscle of their own. Tom Mitchell has an uncanny magnetism and leaves his fingerprints all over the ball. Even though Graham and Cotchin run with him from time to time the Tigers choose not to smother him with a hard tag, opting instead to back their own onballers to cause more damage.

 

Of the utmost interest to Richmond supporters is the much anticipated debut of Jack Higgins. In the second quarter he marks a speculative kick from Martin in the teeth of goal, plays on, swivels around on his right foot and slams it through for his first major in the top flight. Before being mobbed by his clubmates he takes off at full speed to celebrate with ecstatic Richmond supporters, making himself a prime candidate for cult hero status. He adds a second in the third term when he aggressively volleys between Blake Hardwick and James Frawley when a ball lobs in the square. Only his teammates can prevent Higgins from vaulting the fence in jubilation, not having realised that he would be leaping into the jaws of the Hawthorn cheer squad.

 

During the week leading up to the game Clarkson had criticised Geelong’s Joel Selwood for milking frees by dropping his knees, leading with the shoulder and causing tackles to stray above the shoulder. His small forward Paul Puopolo is a master of the craft, especially with the final manoeuvre of the sequence when he hurls himself backward to accentuate the high contact. In the light of Clarkson’s comments you could argue that Puopolo is fouling the Glenferrie nest. Naturally I am incensed along with the Richmond players and supporters, but much more forgiving whenever it has been practised in the past by Anthony Miles or Dylan Grimes.

 

There is a curious incident in the second term. Castagna grapples with defender Jack Gunston in the square, who taps the ball and soccers it over the line for a rushed behind. The goal umpire calls for a review, every spectator in the stadium sees what has happened and gets ready for the kick-out. A goal is signalled on the scoreboard! Castagna shakes his head in disbelief. The field umpires call for another look and the verdict is changed. Just like dialling an incorrect number on a phone, the operator hit the wrong button in the first instance.

 

The Tigers lead by 19 points at half time and extend the difference to a comfortable 33 points at the final break. Cotchin is dominating. Conca, Houli, Riewoldt, Vlastuin and Short are backing their skipper. While Martin is not his normal dominant self, his every touch is important to the team’s fortunes, playing a leading hand in setting up at least five goals. When Castagna finds himself on the edge of a chain of handballs and pops it through at the two-minute mark of the last quarter, Richmond’s lead is out to 39 points. I have a theorem which states that if a team is up by more than 30 points after the first score of the final term, they have a 90% chance of winning the match.

 

Daniel Butler kicks a delightful back heel goal as he runs onto a bouncing ball in the square. Thus emboldened, he squanders a simple shot from only 20 metres out by taking the caring and sharing to an absurd level with a handball to a stunned Castagna, who is swamped by defenders. Those Tigers certainly love each other.

 

The Hawks had four fewer days that Richmond to recover from their Round 2 clash with Geelong. I further theorise that they will tire in the latter stages of the game and that Richmond may significantly boost their percentage. Instead, the Hawks refuse to lay down and boot five of the last six goals of the match, reducing the final margin to a modest 13 points. The Tigers are content to run the clock down.

 

They won’t go away, these Mayblooms and maybe Clarkson still has a sequel in him.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. daniel flesch says:

    Great write-up John . To your theory that if a team is up by more than 30 points after the first score of the final term, they have a 90% chance of winning the match , i’d add “first team to get to 100 points wins” Happens a lot . Also ten day break against a six day break (not even a week !) is a stinker and the AwFL FIXture clowns should be roundly criticised for it . (Though a Hawks supporter i’d say the same if it had been the other way round. Level playing field both metaphorically as well as literally please AwFL.)

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