Round 2 – Hawthorn v West Coast: Seers of Miseries


Well you wouldn’t want to waste your time paying attention to the so-called experts would you? Hawthorn were due to unfurl their third premiership flag in as many years but no one gave them a chance! A hundred and sixty odd years of footy should enlighten us to the universal law that, as a matter of necessity, it takes a few games to detect any trends emerging in a new footy season. They usually become noticeable at about the time one is making the seasonal switch from Coopers’ Pale Ale to their Sparkling Ale, about round four or five for me. The early prophecies of the media are about as reliable as a modern politician’s ideological commitment during an election campaign. They say anything to fill the media space at a given time but afterwards backtrack and redefine their “core” predictions in the unabashed cold light of day.


Consider the following; Collingwood slayed by Sydney in their first game, and then pilloried by all and sundry, manage to edge out the “Great Pretender” in their next game. Then the Melbourne and Geelong renaissances that were raucously heralded after excellent first up wins splutter into dark ages of nothingness during round two. Hawthorn? The Mighty Mayblooms were stridently condemned as all washed up after their, almost ritual, opening round loss to Geelong and missing a giant slice of their premiership side were given no chance against West Coast. Yet the Mighty Hawks managed to belt them on the M.C.G. again. One commentator, before the game, even stated that Hawthorn could not be considered a chance against Footscray even if they managed to win against West Coast. After the game the very same commentators were praising the Hawthorn Way and rehashing their scripts without missing a beat. The unsound predictions of Hawthorn being 0-3 were giggled at but never honestly evaluated. The future forecasters had moved on.


I’ve never thought the Mustardpots anything more than a fair chance to win another flag in 2016, which is the same as I rated them throughout previous four seasons. They’ll probably sit somewhere between 3- 6, on the ladder, for most of the season, but all of that is relative to which of the other sides improve or don’t. How any of the finalist will fire in September is something people can only guess at in April.


I didn’t watch or listen to the Geelong v Hawthorn game, was busy trouting on the La Trobe River, but afterwards got the sense that the Hawks were flat while Geelong and their prestigious new recruit were raring to go. So Hawthorn got what they deserved. However, watching this game, against West Coast, the Mighty Mayblooms appear busy and focussed. Some of the ol’ grandees have a decidedly cold-blooded approach to the footy. Lewis the acting skipper plays another steady no frills game. His evolution from a raw black hatted recruit into team leader is one of the most pleasing footy journeys I have had the privilege to watch. Mitchell is majestic early on and then settles into the familiar role of a maestro conductor for the rest of the game. Gibson shows dash and nerve and his first quarter is sublime. His last quarter goal, his first for the Brown’n’Gold, is just reward for the many attacks he had set up throughout the game. If it is his finest game statistically, then it has come within the twilight of his career. So who is all washed up now?


You have to admire the teamwork of the Hawthorn forward line. Those slaps, taps, pickpocketing of the opposition and the astute roving of the packs are the slick work of well honed professionals. Gunston, Cyril, Bruest and Puopolo are fierce competitors and as dangerous as a pack of hungry dingoes. Schoenmakers should be left on the forward line, he can play a role.  Clarko might’ve been a bit rash in moving on the eccentric Brian. Frawley’s ability to outmark and out bustle the bigger full-forwards like Hawkins and Cloke remains to be proved, yet his game today is solid and reliable. Also, the current half-back line of Burgoyne, Gibson and Birchall must rival that classic trio of Jaworskyj, Knights and Bremner. The Hawthorn core still have great footy in them.


The rest of the Hawthorn system also works, at the moment. Litherland, Howe and Hartung all played useful games and gave a fusion of grunt, flexibility and run where needed. Langford regained some of his old “Achillies like fury” about the ball. Scilley and O’rourke look very good; In three or so years, O’Rourke might be very very good. Smith ran out of the backline and ran wide and ran to link up plays and in the end got the ball over thirty times. Not a bad day’s work.


The final margin was exactly the same as their last encounter, 46 points. Yet while West Coast were decisively outplayed; they played better than the last time these sides met in the 2015 Grand Final. This time West Coast didn’t seem so brittle and a few of their better players fought it out. They hit back with consecutive goals and I liked the efforts of Gaff, Kennedy, Darling and Naitunui. Kennedy still has time left in his career but at this stage it looks like West Coast might have got the better of the trade deal for Judd. Kennedy could very possibly spearhead them to a premiership, while it looks like Judd’s great accomplishment at Carlton might’ve been to bump up the membership numbers.


In the olden days, I was a hack ruck that battled away in the Twos but I still watch the big “Nick Nat” with a keen eye.  He cops a lot of unwarranted stick, but then again he needs to play smarter. He might be the strongest ruck on the ground and this helps with his tap work but McEvoy and Ceglar, as a combination, managed to outpoint him. They offered a strong contest at ball ups and contributed more around the ground. McEvoy even kicked a goal. Naitunui fought back valiantly in the last quarter but the combined efforts of McEvoy and Ceglar were too much. As an example, at about the nine-minute mark of the third quarter a West Coast free was awarded. Nick Nat, being the gentleman that he is, returned the ball to his team mate. The ball was booted forwarded and marked in the goal square by McEvoy, who then set up a chain of play which included Ceglar. Naitunui was still standing where he had picked up the ball, obviously stuffed from battling his guts out from one end of the ground to the other. No idea who the second West Coast ruck was and while I’m at it I’ve no idea what was wrong with Priddis either.


My votes go to 3: Gibson, 2: Mitchell and 1: Lewis.


* Written in memory of my late brother, Col. Born this day 39 years ago.


  1. Rick Kane says

    A very ordered and circumspect piece Mr Hodder, with splashes of great insight including the Coopers Sparkling Ale observation and the Lewis point. It was good to see Sicily get his hands on the ball and kick a couple.


  2. E.regnans says

    Well played S Hodder.
    And a touching mention of the memorial nature of your writing.

    “Beware of experts and groupthink” is a regular topic at our place.
    What are they peddling?
    What is their motive?
    What’s really going on?
    – are all reasonable questions pretty much all the time.

  3. Steve Hodder says

    Scilly give us a glimpse of the future, hey? It looks ok I think.

    Ahoy, Big Fella,
    On the way back from the Nojee way, I called in and visited a relative of yours, the Ada Tree. Magnificent! And a good way to put things into perspective. Imagine if you could repeat the the following mantra? “One Century at a time”?


  4. peter cahill says

    Nicely written and most engaging Steve. Good luck with future articles,

    Peter Cahill. Go Hawks!

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