Round 15 – Hawthorn v West Coast: a true winter’s afternoon of footy


It always threatened to be a miserable day. As the week went on, the forecast for Saturday seemed to get worse as each day passed, a bleakness that grew more certain by the hour. And so it was to be that as game day finally rolled around, and the rain and wind howled outside in the morning hours, it was clear that what lay ahead was a true winter’s afternoon of footy.


There was talk throughout the week that the artic weather may have kept many Hawks fans in the warmth of the pub or the cozy confines of their lounge rooms. The presumption too that the team from Perth would easily steer the result their way was seen as another convenient excuse to bypass this fixture.


The trudge through the wet Yarra Park toward the MCG revealed a different reality however: encouragingly, many clad in brown and gold had braved the weather, as had a surprising number of West Coast affiliates keen for a taste of their team’s current winning run.


As the rain continued to fall steadily to open the game, and as Jack Darling goaled within thirty seconds of the first bounce, that assumption that this match would follow the Eagles’ script could hardly be refuted.


But Hawthorn steadied – thanks in part to their forward half stalwarts in Luke Breust and Jack Gunston, but also the lanky Irishman Conor Nash, who kicked a beautiful running snap over his shoulder against the run of the play to ignite the Hawks faithful.


They looked on Hawthorn, as if they viewed Adam Simpson’s side as the perfect scalp for their spluttering season. West Coast conversely – despite their early score – did not, and one was left to ponder for the briefest moment if this rain-soaked day would the Hawks’ after all.


Gradually, they too readied themselves for what the game would require, and as the first interval came, a glance to the scoreboard revealed that the Eagles in fact led.


This was thanks in no small part to Darling, who booted all three of his side’s first quarter goals. For a largely enigmatic footballer, today represented what Darling is so capable of: he goaled when his team needed goals, and his contested marking on a day where aerial feats were limited represented a quality that few others on the ground could replicate.


Having relinquished control of the match throughout the second term, Alastair Clarkson’s men offered a fierce rebuke to Eagles claim to ascendency after half time, a shift in gears that signified that they had been called to action over the long break.


With the match having been played on West Coast’s terms throughout the second quarter, suddenly it was Hawthorn who appeared as if they may run away with the match. The overlapping run that for so long was a constant in their game reappeared, as the ball was continually booted deep into the West Coast defence. Isaac Smith began to get his hands on the footy, as did Ricky Henderson, the club’s unlikely hero this season who continues to defy accepted footy logic with his career renaissance.


The veteran marvel Shaun Burgoyne kicked a wonderful goal on the run from beyond fifty, and as debutant Oliver Hanrahan ran into an open goal to bring his club’s faithful to their feet, the Hawks, almost unexpectedly, held the lead.


Luke Shuey answered courtesy of a brain fade from Smith, before the classy wingman responded to right his wrong shortly after. The Hawks had registered eleven scoring shots to one for the quarter, an upheaval that had swung the accepted narrative of the match.


But the Eagles weren’t done – a side of their quality will rarely wilt in the face of a sudden challenge.


The reigning premiers responded immediately: Liam Ryan goaled within the first minute of the final quarter; Darling registered his fourth not long after. They had been brave, the Hawks, but it appeared as if West Coast would do what good teams do, and claim a victory that for so long sat on the precipice.


But as the rain grew heavier, Hawthorn surged once more. Henderson found himself on the end of a full ground chain of possession, before a string of missed opportunities kept the Eagles close enough to strike once more.


As Daniel Howe goaled directly in front halfway through the quarter, the lead had extended beyond a goal. Maybe, you thought, the Eagles would not display that final push you always felt was coming.


In the reigning Norm Smith medallist however, the Eagles had their remedy to a defeat. Shuey was herculean in the final term, his push from the centre of the ground continually stifling the prospect of the opposition seizing the match.


He is an intriguing footballer, Shuey. Lacking the flash of the contemporary superstar, his blend of speed and willpower flies under the radar, but he exudes as much quality as any midfielder in the competition. His influence, along with Darling’s, was ultimately the difference in a match that neither team could master.


As the match entered its final throes, the arm wrestle that had defined the match intensified as each team willed the ball forward, chasing that final forward-half stoppage that would keep the ball in their territory.


Somehow, someway, West Coast shifted the ball toward their scoring end, and locked it inside their forward 50 long enough for Brad Sheppard to muster a behind from a hurried snap.


With the scores level, Burgoyne launched a final heave up the middle of the ground, a last-ditch effort to avoid the unfathomable draw.


From a clutch of hands, the ball was thrust back towards the Eagles goal. Perched at the feet of the numerous bodies who had flung themselves at the footy sat Jamie Cripps who calmly slotted his third goal over his shoulder and handed the Eagles a victory in the most thrilling of circumstances.


For those that did brave the harsh winter rain, their reward was a captivating game of footy, one in which the expected result swayed and morphed right until the final siren. As bitter as it was to witness a narrow Hawks loss, the enthralling spectacle was enough to leave you satisfied with the afternoon – even if the rain did leave its mark.


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  1. Tom, it would have been so much easier to curl up on the couch and take in the match in warmth and comfort, so full marks to you for getting there, putting up with the conditions, appreciating what was in front of you, and then writing such a measured and thoughtful account. A+!

  2. Similar situation over here in good old SA with North Melbourne tossing the Power, often in torrential rain. Conditions were much better in my lounge room, especially with the Power losing.

    One good thing for the players these days is that, with much better drainage, the players don’t have to navigate through heavy mud. In years gone by it was often difficult to tell players, and teams apart with all covered in thick mud.

  3. Brilliant game to watch – from a warm couch in Perth. Very balanced and insightful match report Tom. Are you sure you barrack for Hawthorn? Rick Kane will get you in for some reeducation classes.
    Impey has improved in leaps and bounds under Clarko. An intercepting rebound defender in the Saad/Houli mould. Having Hutchings tag him in the first half is a big compliment.

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