Round 2 – Hawthorn v Richmond: Clarko’s reconstruction

At last, Alistair Clarkson has conceded that the Hawthorn Football Club is not currently in premiership contention.


He’s like an old air raid warden in the east end of London, looking over the ruins along Whitechapel Road five years after the Blitz and declaring, “You know chaps, it’s really time we started to rebuild here.”


With very little in the way of expectation, Clarkson is becoming a jovial figure. Still good mates with his former assistant Damien Hardwick, he admits they caught up earlier in the week and joked that the pair might be a little distant to each other approaching the day of the match.


There is considerable interest in fledgling Hawks Taylor Brockman, Will Day, Connor Downie,  Changkuoth Jiath and Jacob Koschitzke. Full marks to the Hawks for what they achieved in the first round. They overcame a 39-point half-time deficit to pip Essendon by a point with a late goal to Tim O’Brien.


I watch the VFL practice match between Richmond and the Box Hill Hawks at Punt Road with my son. With spectators not allowed entry, we view the game along with about a hundred others through the wire mesh fence just opposite the Royal Hotel, the venue where the club was formed at a meeting back in 1885. We share an affinity with the barrackers of a bygone era who were a few pennies short of the admission charge and climbed trees in Yarra Park to see the action.


With the VFL Tigers up by 22 points late in the final quarter we make our way to the MCG for Richmond’s first day game since the 2019 Grand Final. The Tigers hunted by night in every game they played in  the 2020 season.


We normally inhabit the sheltered Olympic Stand side of the stadium, in our reserved seats at home games and standing at the fence at the rear of our section for away matches. No standing allowed at the present time, so we book seats in the front row of Level Four in the Southern Stand.  I didn’t realise that one could get so hot in direct twenty-degree autumn sunshine. It’s club caps and sunscreen time for two fair-skinned Tiger tragics.


I’m confident. So is my progeny and he’s demanding a percentage booster. After all, major rivals like Port Adelaide routinely crush lesser opposition.


But there’s no place for complacency. Richmond’s most substantial defeat of the 2020 campaign was a 32-point flaying dished out by the Hawks in Round 3.


We’re unaccustomed these days to sitting in the stratosphere. I struggle to identify Hawthorn players, especially when they appear in the shadow cast by the Olympic Stand. Scoreboard replays are of little assistance. Massive PA speakers are unavoidable in these days when the AFL believe we need to be entertained by musical excerpts from Wolfmother and inane ground announcers urging the home fans to support their team. The speakers obscure our view of the centre of the screens at both ends of the arena.


The Tigers boot the first three majors of the match through Riewoldt, Balta and Lynch.  They apply their patented brand of swarming pressure to Clarkson’s men and capitalise on the inevitable errors and turnovers. Richmond’s back six form an impenetrable barrier. They rule the air, repel and launch slingshot counter-attacks. A Tiger landslide looks increasingly likely.


Clarkson studies the emphatic writing in red texta with repeated exclamation marks on his mini-whiteboard and opts for putting numbers behind the ball and minimising the carnage. Richmond’s aggressive, overlapping brand of quick handball and corridor surges is stymied.


The game becomes a dour affair in which the margin remains at around four goals for the remainder of the afternoon. Hawthorn close to within 17 points half way through the third term and Richmond lead by as much as 37 points late in the last quarter. Cloud cover provides some release from the heat, but the game itself is forgettable and the result never in doubt. Still, any win is a good win and we’ll gladly bank it.


Of the junior Hawks recently hatched at Waverley Changkuoth Jiath is the pick of the brood. He displays precocious talent and doesn’t mind taking a risk. Tyler Brockmam moves well and boots a couple of majors. Will Day is subbed out in the third term after being crunched in a tackle by Josh Caddy.


Dusty dominates again. Balta, Baker and Broad are killer bees in defence. Prestia, Edwards, Bolton, Lambert and Riewoldt provide the sting in the Tiger tail.


But there’s still a bit of the street fighter in Alistair Clarkson. He is adamant that his designated tagger, Shaun Burgoyne, had ‘subdued’ Dustin Martin. This is despite Martin’s 28 possessions, barnstorming goal, three centre bounce clearances, eleven score involvements, nine inside 50s and two gift goals for his good friend in Jack Riewoldt.


Only four votes from me son, and not five, in the AFL Coaches Association Award.  Don’t forget I’m still the master coach and If I say my strategy worked, then by golly it did.



HAWTHORN      1.1     5.2     6.3     7.7 (49)
       4.4     8.7     9.8    11.12 (78) 


Breust 2, Brockman 2, Koschitzke, Morrison, O’Brien
Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Lynch 2, Castagna 2, Balta, Aarts, Martin 


Mitchell, Jiath, Hardwick, Impey, Phillips
Martin, Cotchin, Riewoldt, Short, Bolton, Prestia 


Hawthorn: Day (ankle)
Richmond: Nil


Hawthorn: Scrimshaw (replaced Day)
Richmond: Ross (Unused)


Crowd: 41,051 at the MCG


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  1. Enjoyable read JG. Dusty has won me over after years of thinking of him as a poor man’s Leigh Matthews. Dusty makes the game for team mates in a way that Matthews never quite did. He’s a better kick with a greater awareness of space. Your Tigers will remain dominant as long as he is on the park.

  2. Nice stuff, John.

    Level 4 is a long way up, for sure, but it is better than not being there at all!!

    Percentage booster? I cannot believe how cocky you Tiger fans have become!!

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