AFL Round 2 – Essendon v Hawthorn: The four points

 

  1. Unravelling leadership

 

I don’t think of Jobe Watson as a leader in the same way I think of Luke Hodge. As captain, Watson does a reasonable job I guess. He is captain more for his football skills than the leadership he exudes. With Hodge it’s a different matter all together. In football terms he is just about the rulebook definition of leader.

 

This realization, this reality came crashing down around Hawthorn in the third quarter of the Hawks v Bombers Round 2 match when Hodge left the ground and put on the red Interchange vest. This event set off 30 minutes of panic by the Hawks, wrapped up in blunders packed in directionless and tied together by the opposite of a game plan. Essendon chased down 32 points with the old quick running, keep the ball moving forward, commit and don’t blink game. The Dons went into the three quarter break three points to the good and revved up. The Hawks look startled, as if the last twelve months was but a dream. Most of all they looked to the Interchange bench as if by merely looking they could will the red vest off their captain and leader.

 

Hodge’s absence left a critical void; certainly the Hawks missed his skills but the more noticeable loss was his signature stance just off centre half back, pointing, shouting instructions and exemplifying the idea that none but the brave deserve to don a Hawks guernsey.

 

  1. How young?

 

The team that won the 2013 Premiership went into the second game of 2014 with six players (or one quarter of its squad) having played a combined total of 74 games. Three of that six made up 71 of those games. And so it was that Cheney was an old stager in this group. Cheney has dropped in and out of the Hawks team over the last couple of years but against Essendon he was expected to stand tall as a senior in the backline. Alongside him was Duryea, who held down his spot in last year’s backline and is developing as a good, steady hand. When Hodge went off the ground the Hawks backline (never known for its height) also lost a big chunk of wisdom. That these two didn’t let the Hawks down should send a warning out to other clubs. Cheney earned his spot in the Hawks best for the night. And while the three newbies (O’Brien, Litherland and Langford), with three games between them prior to this one didn’t set the game on fire they were part of the win. Langford got his hand on the ball, worked his way into the contest and played his part in the last when the Hawks stepped up its intensity and hunger to take the points. At one point, with less then 3 minutes to go, Langford, Simpkin (the other newbie) and Cheney controlled the ball for the Hawks on the boundary in the Bombers forward line and moved it out of harms way.

 

 

  1. Burgoyne

 

Chappy (I won’t get used to him in black with red sash) kicked an important goal for the Bombers late in the game. It was important because it gave the Bombers a two goal lead. More importantly, Chappy just happens to be the last trace of the Kennett curse. If the Bombers won, on the back of Chappy’s effort there would be a lingering seepage from a spell the Hawks thought they had killed off last September. Enter Burgoyne. The ball went back to the centre to be bounced. There was three minutes left on the clock. Nine seconds later, courtesy Burgoyne silky smooth roving and 50m plunge kick deep into the Hawks forward line, the Hawks were back within three points and stopped asking and started doing. Nine seconds. Starting with Hale’s deft tap work, Burgoyne’s gather and kick, Roughy’s attempted mark and Breust’s crumbing, swirl and goal. Nine seconds. The centrepiece was Burgoyne. The centrepiece of the Hawks win was Burgoyne. He may well be the centrepiece of the Hawks 2014.

 

  1. Essendon (the footy side) are the real deal!

 

The Hawks were the better side. The first half was, at times, a masterclass by the 2013 Premiers. Smith, Suckling, Roughy and Gibbo showed even those with a passing interest that just below the grit and grime of this seemingly nonsensical sport there are gems and jewels and diamonds. In the dying moments Cyril (and Hill) rose above the clamour with clarity of purpose and steely eye.

 

Behind the Hawks big steal is another story and it is as sad as it is wonderful. The Bombers are a strikingly good team. At full back, Fletcher, older than some of his team mates’ parents, keeps on keeping on. Jobe is a superstar. The core is made up of Zaharakis, Hocking, Hooker and Hurley. Goddard and Chappy are impressive recruits. Youngsters like Joe Daniher and Ambrose are just going to get better. And they’re pretty good already. But for me, Heppell is their centrepiece. Quick of mind and hand, unafraid and with plenty of fuel in the tank. He’d look good in a Hawk’s guernsey is what I’m saying. And that’s high praise.

 

Watching this developing, skilled and well drilled team almost snatch a victory with a winner’s hunger got me wondering. What possessed the coaching department to over-cook these ingredients? Why would a club take such a risk? It’s not as if they had to. The team has the skill, capability and desire. If this game told us anything it told us that Essendon needs to learn how to win when the going gets tough. You won’t learn how to do that with chemicals. You’ll learn that on the field playing teams like the mighty Hawks.

 

ESSENDON       1.5   3.7   9.10  12.14   (86)          

HAWTHORN      4.1   9.3    9.7   13.12   (90)                  

 

GOALS

Essendon: Ambrose 3, Hardingham 2, Carlisle 2, Zaharakis, Stanton, Hocking, Merrett, Chapman

Hawthorn: Suckling 2, Breust 2, Rioli 2, Roughead, Hill, Gunston, Hale, Lewis, Puopolo, Simpkin

 

BEST 

Essendon: Heppell, Hibberd, Goddard, Watson, Zaharakis, Ambrose

Hawthorn: Burgoyne, Gibson, Rioli, Suckling, Cheney,

 

INJURIES 

Essendon: Patrick Ryder (left ankle)

Hawthorn: Luke Hodge (groin)

 

SUBSTITUTES

Essendon: Zach Merrett replaced Patrick Ryder (ankle) in the third quarter

Hawthorn: Jonathan Simpkin replaced Luke Hodge (groin) in the third quarter

 

Reports: Nil

 

Umpires: Chamberlain, Meredith, Ryan

 

Official crowd: 44,163 at Etihad Stadium

 

Our votes: 3 – Burgoyne (H); 2 – Heppell (E); 1 – Gibson (H)

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Rick 1st off glad to see that the AFL has gone back to tradition playing the reserves game before the league game as surely Thurs night was a readies game ?
    Leadership as you know is 1 of my favourite topics and while Hodge is number 1
    ( remember Mitchell was not playing as well ) I think your not giving Watson enough credit ( obviously not shane ) he was a major factor in keeping Essendo together last season and let’s remember they were playing for top spot in round 18 when they were under more pressure than any other playing group in football history ( obviously no sympathy for there stupidity what so ever ) . Burgoyne is the best clearance player in the competition and has been elite in this aspect of the game his entire career his combination with Lade at Port was incredible also
    Rick spot on re Essendon they are 1 of the best sides in the competiition and makes theeir behaviour and arrogance over this saga even more baffling Thanks Rick

  2. Rick Kane says

    Thanks Rulebook, as you can appreciate, the point about leadership was not so much to make a comment about Watson as it was to highlight how important Hodge’s leadership is to the Hawks on-field structures and game plan.

    On Jobe: I would be interested to read an analysis of his role in the Essendon saga. Is leadership about falling in line with the club’s instructions (no matter how conflicted you are about those instructions) or is leadership about stepping up and challenging instructions if you think they are not in the best interests of the greater good? Depending on what side you take re that concept may well underscore what you think of his leadership through that saga and therefore more generally. It’s an interesting matter to consider.

    I love how Burgoyne plays the game. I did when he played for PA and even more so now. He saved our bacon against the Crows in the 2012 Prelim. I can see him coming even more into the Hawks game (as one of the midfield leaders) in 2014.

    Cheers

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    In is v interesting Rick and is mind blowing that Watson , Fletcher and Stanton etc did not stand up for the greater good and to me explains how it was sold to the players in the 1st place and as per most sports people by the time they realised the dangers of it all it was too late . . Bloody Burgoyne don’t I as a crows man no it ! His balance and poise is up there with the all time greats

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Interesting point re senior players R Kane.

    Spot on re Chappy.

    The balance and vision of Burgoyne is something to behold.

    Cheers,

    P Flynn

  5. E.regnans says

    Grand points, T Slim, well made.
    Always exciting to watch new identities come through and deliver the bacon.
    The J Watson conundrum is thought-provoking.
    I’m a fan of the “bad things happen when good people stand by” school of thought.

    Perhaps this episode is a stand-out example of the power of peer group and group-think in young males.
    Well played.

  6. Grant Fraser says

    Beautifully written, Rick – but we expect nothing less. Cyril, I love you.

  7. Rick, Rulebook; as much of an “insider” wank as this sounds, you’d be surprised what went on at Essendon off the record and behind the scenes involving Jobe, Fletch and other leaders at the club. Jobe’s leadership in 2013 should never be underestimated.

    AS you say TSlim, the leadership stuff was about Hodgey, so credit to him. Hodge has got to be the captain’s Captain. When it’s his turn, he goes and woe betide anyone who gets in his way. Unlike another skipper who wears stripes and only seems to show heart when he’s squaring off against a rookie, Hodge happily goes beyond his weight division in both contested ball and the physical push and shove stuff. His use of the ball is exquisite – his ability to pinpoint a useful option is amongst the best in the game.

  8. daniel flesch says

    Great writing and analysis , T. Slim , with appreciated brown and gold bias. Am more than just a little about concerned Capt. Hodge’s likely absence this Friday in the re-match against the fired -up Dremantle Fockers . When you place your tips in worrying instances like this there’s a contrast between loyalty and instinct.

  9. Paul Campbell says

    Hi Rick,

    Very enjoyable read. I agree the old enemy look top 4 bound. They will hang onto the ball and ‘pass’ teams to death. Still, despite the balance of possession we looked more comfortable, hitting a forward or scoreboard, for half a game.

    Then in the 3rd …

    The Hodge substitution was contemporaneous with a ‘pffffft’ of escaping air from a moving balloon. A little (Hodge) blood in the water and an opponent reading well from Thomson’s 2007-2010 play book; the helter skelter bolt, overlap, ‘these Englanders run like madmen’ pages.

    Burgoyne, Pup’s goal, Smith’s toe pokes, fatigue and the different psychology between chasing a lead and protecting one. When Chapman kicked his goal, a truly shit weekend was on the horizon. Enter the Breust… then a little Cyril magic.

    Great match. I could conclude with ‘football was the real winner’, but Hawthorn was the real winner.

  10. aussie80s says

    The one game I want to win every year. I could cope to some degree with a loss to Freo this Friday but a loss to Essendon would have resulted in a foetal position being assumed.

    After not kicking a goal for 50min at one stage, having Paul “never losing to Hawthorn again” Chapman put the Bombers 9 points up with 4 minutes to go and then seeing the artistry of Burgoyne and Rioli steal the winning goals it was just absolute magic.

    Missing tall defenders like Stratton, Lake and Schoenmakers and midfielders like Sewell, Hodge and Mitchell ……and still getting up. This is just another (great) chapter in the rivalry that is Hawthorn v Essendon.

    I am at peace with the world

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