The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Hawthorn

HAWTHORN

As you read this, the world’s pre-eminent minds are gathering in an attempt to discover just how it is Hawthorn managed to avoid winning the flag in 2012.

Sorry, but it’s true. The side of 2012 was so overwhelmingly better than everyone else offensively that it took a monumental effort to outscore them. Then there is their defensive efforts, particularly in the middle, which, while not up to the same glorious standard as the attack, was still amongst the best in the entire competition. Hawthorn were dominant in 2012, and that flag will always be the one that got away.

2012 Key Statistics

Hawthorn 2012 Offensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Disposals

374.8

2nd

Contested Possessions

145.4

6th

Clearances

41.6

1st

Inside 50s

59.6

1st

Marks Inside 50

13.3

4th

Hitouts

39.7

9th

Goals

17.4

1st

 

Hawthorn 2012 Defensive

Average per Game

Competition Rank

Points Against

78.77

3rd

Inside 50s Conceded

45.5

1st

Marks Inside 50 Conceded

10.6

tied 8th

Tackles

67.5

5th

 

Hawthorn 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials

Total

Competition Rank

Inside 50s Opponent Differential(Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded)

352

1st

Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential(Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded)

69

5th

 

What are they great at?

Where do we begin?

Hawthorn was an offensive juggernaut last year. Not only did they lead the league in goals per game, they scored forty seven more than the next highest scoring side (Adelaide). Did I mention they did this despite Lance Franklin missing six games?

Total Scoring Shots in 2012

Hawthorn

817

Adelaide

703

Sydney

668

West Coast

666

Collingwood

663

North Melbourne

625

Geelong

624

St Kilda

622

Richmond

614

Essendon

596

Carlton

584

Fremantle

568
Brisbane

509

Port Adelaide

476
Melbourne

460

Western Bulldogs

452
Gold Coast

434

GWS

360

Ignoring the fact the Eagles are clearly working on behalf of dark forces, Hawthorn were miles in front of everybody else in terms of generating scoring shots. Their forwards owe a great deal of their success to their midfield colleagues, who similarly blitzed the rest of the competition in some key offensive areas. They led the league in clearances and forward fifty entries.

The midfield didn’t work just one way either, allowing the least amount of opposition forward entries. So, not only did Hawthorn’s midfield give their forwards more opportunities than any other midfield in the league, they also minimised opposition entries better than anyone else. In terms of pure points against per game, the Hawks had the third best defence going around.

What are they good at?

If the Hawks weren’t great at it, chances are they were still pretty good at it.

Thanks largely to the overwhelming amount of times they sent it forward, and a little help from Franklin, they finished 4th in terms of marks inside 50. Had Franklin not missed as many games as he did, they probably would’ve gone close to topping this category as well.

Tackling is another aspect of the game that Hawthorn were above average in, with eleven players averaging three or more tackles a game in 2012.

What do they need to improve?

Despite the fact nobody gave up less inside 50s than the Hawks, they only ranked 8th when it came to marks inside 50 conceded. Put simply, teams may have struggled to get the ball forward against the Hawks, but when they did, there were marks to be had. Josh Gibson had an impressive year, but his style and height is better suited to being a third man over the top rather than trying to win one on one contests, and, despite improvement, Schoenmakers remains a player who you’re happy to see standing next to your side’s best forward.

 What are they bad at?

Capturing the flag in seasons they dominate.

POINTS OF INTEREST IN 2013

Luke Hodge

Injury has hampered Hodge of late. He only managed ten appearances in 2012, and in several of them he was clearly less than 100 per cent. His 2013 pre-season has been nearly non-existent, having only just recently commenced running drills, and it seems unlikely we’ll see him in the opening rounds.

With his ongoing injury concerns over the past few years, Hodge’s role within the side has changed. Once a pivotal member, Hawthorn’s performances without him mean Hodge is a great luxury. When fit, he is an impact player who can play anywhere on the ground, though long stints in the middle will probably occur less and less as they manage his workload. The Hawks can afford to be patient with Hodge, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Hawks keep him in cotton wool for as long as possible or necessary in order to keep him fit for September, much like the Cats did with Ottens at the tail end of his career.

Brian Lake

As discussed earlier, the Hawks only real weakness in 2012 was allowing way too many marks inside 50, relative to the amount of entries they gave up.  Hawthorn sought to address this problem in the off-season by acquiring veteran defender Brian Lake from the Bulldogs.

Lake may prove to be the biggest addition to any premiership contender this off-season. He should immediately become the side’s full-back, and is a significant upgrade on the recently departed Gilham and Murphy. By occupying the full-back position, it frees both Gibson and Stratton from having to occupy the role. Gibson in particular excels when he doesn’t have to man a direct opponent and can instead provide support to the other defenders as a third man at the contest.

Brutal Start to the Season

The Hawks have the most brutal opening month I can ever recall.

Opponent Venue
Round 1 Geelong MCG
Round 2 West Coast Patersons
Round 3 Collingwood MCG
Round 4 Fremantle Aurora

 

and the next three weeks aren’t much better

Round 5 North Melbourne MCG
Round 6 Adelaide AAMI
Round 7 Sydney MCG

 

It’s such a rough opening seven weeks that the AFL scheduled a month long bye for them

Round 8 GWS Aurora
Round 9 Gold Coast MCG
Round 10 Melbourne MCG
Round 11 Actual Bye

 

Lance Franklin

I’ve never understood delaying signing a new contract under the public justification of “just wanting to concentrate on my footy”. Not signing a new contract does the exact opposite. It intensifies speculation and provides plenty of distraction from football, just look at Travis Cloke last year.

Of course I’m lying. We do understand why people do this, and it isn’t so they can just concentrate on their footy. This is one of those lies in which both the person saying it and the entire audience knows it is a lie, yet he says it anyway, because if he told the truth, the truth being he wants to keep his options open for as long as possible and, as a restricted free agent, there is a chance he could receive an even larger offer from somebody else and either leave or force his current club into matching, then we’d chastise him. We would give him a hard time for this honesty and for doing something that is both logical and entirely within his rights.

Now I doubt Franklin leaves Hawthorn, because broadly speaking good players don’t leave good teams unless there is a serious boost in cash forthcoming (see: Ablett). It seems unlikely that any other club will be in a position to blow the Hawks out of the water in a monetary sense. I doubt one or two hundred thousand more would be enough to make him leave the Hawks, meaning someone will have to outbid them to the tune of 300k or more, which isn’t easy when you’re starting at a base of about a million. Which clubs have 1.3 million to spend AND can offer a similar supporting cast the Hawks can? Fremantle seem to be the popular pick, based on their offers to Cloke last year and the fact Franklin hails from Western Australia.

Can they actually outbid the Hawks? Does Franklin just want to return to his home state and money is a secondary issue? Does Franklin have no intention of leaving Hawthorn and is merely trying to make sure he gets as much as he can out of them? These are all things we are going to hear about on a near daily basis as the season progresses.

2013 OUTLOOK

Not only do the Hawks have a very rough opening two months to the season, they also have to play Geelong, Sydney, Collingwood, and West Coast twice.

And I still think they are about as close to a lock for the top four as you’ll find.

Their efforts in the middle, both offensively and defensively, were at such an overwhelmingly better level than the rest of the competition in 2012 that if they even come close to matching it this year it won’t matter who they’re playing most weeks. Young has departed for Collingwood, but the Hawks have several options to replace him on the wing with, like Smith, who already spends a lot of his time on a wing, or Suckling, whose has had his sublime kicking skills utilised off the half-back line in the past, but has liabilities defensively that could be minimised on the wing.

Between Franklin, Bruest, Roughead, Gunston, and Rioli the Hawks boast the best forward line the league, and form the basis of the scoring power that saw them register forty seven more goals than the next best side last year. They achieved this despite Franklin’s absences and being relatively inefficient with their chances. They kicked ten or more behinds in all but one game, and kicked 15 or more behinds on 14 occasions. If they improve their accuracy in front of goal 2013 could be even more devastating.

Defensively was where the biggest issues lay, and the acquisition of Lake will go a long way in aiding that. Lake himself is a very good player in contested situations, and his presence frees Gibson and Stratton into roles that better suit their respective skills.

Hawthorn are the early flag favourites, and it’s hard to fault that selection. The knowledge they fell one step short last season should provide all the motivation they need. Short of a devastating run of injury or some sort of team wide lull in drive as a result of the Franklin situation, the Hawks will almost certainly be a major player in September.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. Hawthorn need to win it while the window of opportunity is stil open. Since 2008s’ victory they’ve not taken their chances. In 2011, they were the better team V Colingwood in the Preliminary Final. Lat year, more free kicks, more scoring shots, in the Grand Final, but coudn’t put it , the game, away. Hawthorn have some absolute champions, Franklin, Rioli, Hodge, some very good second stringers, but their depth falls away after that. If the big guns don’t all fire together, they are exposed. In last years Grand Final Rioli was very quiet, he’s a player who needs to lift in the big games. Similarily players like Puoplo, who had nil contributions in the finals, need to shoulder some burden. Is Brian Lake, the answer for their undersized backline? We’ll see. Adam you might be right about them being flag favourites, but there are some question marks about them delivering. Maybe, to paraphrase Elvis, “it’s now or never “!

    Glen!

  2. The Wrap says:

    The argument for making Hawthorn overwhelming favourites for the 2012 Flag are/were irresistible, yet the number of people who said after the match that they tipped Sydney are legend. You’d have to wonder if they were as brave with their money, eh?

    But this year? Not so sure. Hodgey is a week by week proposition, and Buddy’s shenanigans aren’t fooling anyone. Last year might have been the year – and it certainly got away. But they’d have to start equal, if not outright, favourites. Who else is there?

  3. Neil Belford says:

    Brilliant work Adam. Outright favourite is the only thing you can derive from the analysis.

  4. Rick Kane says:

    Hi Adam

    I have been locked up in a cave somewhere north of the Arctic circle, since, I don’t know, about 5.32pm on the last Saturday in September of the year two thousand and twelve. I have been listening to a lot of George Jones and crying over a lot of spilt milk. By reading your extremely intelligent, informed and balanced analysis of a team God would have playing for him I am now ready to poke my head out of the sanctuary of what has been an extremely long night of the soul. Thank you for lighting the candle of hope and putting it in the window of 2013. I’m ready to go through another roller coaster of a year ’cause I’m a fool for footy.

Leave a Comment

*