Round 22 – West Coast v Hawthorn: All the Tired Horses – a look at the Hawks 2016

The Hawks have lost two games in three weeks. Before that, we won nine on the trot. Including, possibly, our win of the season, against the Swans at the SCG. That was two heavyweights slugging it out to the end. Several years ago, in the Home and Away rounds, the Hawks and Swans played out a similar high skilled, no surrender, bog-tight contest at the MCG. At half time of that encounter I remarked to a friend that at least one of these teams will be in the GF. I thought it would be the Swans. Turned out it was both.

 

Following this year’s Rd 17 clash between the two sides I had a similar feeling. I wanted to believe that win was the stamp that showed the competition the Hawks were made of the right stuff for the 2016 GF. I wanted that so desperately. There was certainly plenty of reason to argue their case. But a niggling thought has been tapping at the back of my mind since Rd 1.

 

We can say the Dangerfield tore us up back then. We can say that because it’s true. However, on the quiet side of honesty, that game raised the first startling realisation of the Hawks season 2016 for me. Our older players’ pace has slowed. Noticeably. Like they were that fast to begin with! And our rising players aren’t there yet. Dangerfield, and Scott and the Cats broke the scab off this deep, dark, unsettling truth.

 

We have been expecting this for two years. We won back to back Premierships. We were clicking our heels, Snoopy style. Happy as clams that couldn’t shut up, bragging rights tattooed across our every conversation. Yes, we strutted. Still, every Hawker knew that while the second Premiership was a beautiful reward the Premiership window was closing. Rapidly. Then we won another. Hail the conquering heroes. For we are a wonderful team and so says all of us. Life (well the footy barracking part of life) doesn’t get much better.

 

At the heart of such a stunning few years for Hawthorn has been the squad. Over the last five years they have become more skilled, more tightly drilled, more willing and more thrilling (electrifying even). They have given 17 other Clubs new ways to structure, to play and to win. Clarko has grown into one of the great sporting coaches. The Hawks have embodied his ideas and his discipline and that work ethic has led to success on field. Like, lots of success.

 

Success continued through 2016. With one round to play we are sitting in the Top 4. On the surface it would appear we are a contender. And we might well be come 1 October. However, that niggling in the back of my mind has never abated. Early on we won three close games. People said the Hawks keep their cool, can play to the wire. That is true. Against Port in the ’14 Prelim we did that. In the 2012 Prelim, against the Crows in 2012 we did that too. And in 2013 we finally broke the Cats in the Prelim, but only just. So maybe those close wins early in the season was just the Hawks getting their shit together.

 

Then we played GWS and our shit (to quote Warren Zevon) got fucked up. It was the Hawks biggest loss since 2009 and the biggest margin kicked against them since 2005. GWS took the Hawks game apart, rang rings around even our best and blasted a hole in our percentage which we still haven’t recovered. Can the Hawks best GWS? That is a question that a mind with a niggle chipping away at the façade it calls confidence does not want to face.

 

As expected of a good side, the Hawks played through the middle of the season winning. Nine in a row. They cemented their spot in the eight, then the Top 4 and then were Ladder leaders. And the “fourthorn” hopes mounted. But deep in my pockets my hands fidgeted away. Sure, my words said one thing. What you might expect. And I certainly didn’t want to rinse any ‘Hawks can do it’ treatise with a negative nelly point of view. Maybe I believed the arguments. The pros and cons. The SWOT analysis as they say. So I concurred (a lot) with the sentiment that the Hawks are on their winning way, again. And I sure as hello hope they are. But for the niggling in the back of the mind.

 

The niggle asks things like, is our forward attack as penetrating without Roughy, how weakened is our backline without Lake/Hale, will Stratton be back for Finals, who replaces Ceglar, can a team debut seven new players and sustain a consistent team into the Finals, can Mitch/Lewis/Hodge/Silk maintain the speed/strength required for the pointy end and was the Melbourne loss the wake-up call we needed or was it something worse?

 

Then we got hit by the Eagles. Hard. That wasn’t a 4 goal loss whatever the scoreboard says. That was a truck-full of hurt. The Eagles stun-gunned the Hawks. To the body, the heart, the mind. The Eagles have been all but written off as a GF contender. Then they reduced a contender to a pre … sorry, I can’t say it. I won’t say it.

 

If it’s any solace the Hawks won their first flag (2013) finishing First, their second flag finishing Second and their third flag finishing Third. If it’s any solace the Hawks have beaten the two key contenders, Sydney and the Crows. If it’s any solace, this is the most even Finals series in many a year; there is not a team that has or is dominating. The question is, can the Hawks horse power fire for the next 5 weeks? My heart says one thing but that damned tell-tale niggle won’t stop niggling.

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day

Comments

  1. Trucker – enough of the hyperbowl. Pressure is the Hawks home (nest). West Coast have been very good or mediocre this year and methinks the swirling recesses of the MCG against the Hawks in the big one would be a bridge too far for the Eagle especially without Nick No Kneeanooi.

    My prediction for GF Hawks v Swans – bloods by 2 goals.

  2. Old mate I reckon 3 teams can win it this year – Swans, Giants, Crows, Hawks. (Yes I did that on purpose. One of these teams is not like the other……..).

    How’s your form against these teams? The Hawks will need everything to go right, and did look slow over the last few weeks. It will depend on who you strike early in September.

  3. Rick, I sense the Hawks will burst out of the blocks against the Pies on the weekend. The final margin will be big enough. The usual suspects will do more than enough. We’ll all smell Spring in the air. The punters, reminded, will jump back on, for as much as they have to, as much as they’d prefer an alternate reality.

  4. Daniel Flesch says:

    Oh Trucker Slim , it looks quite grim . No Ceglar and a question mark on “Stratts.” No Roughie and Scicily out of form , O’Brien still raw and even “Gunners” not shooting straight. They should’ve kept B.Lake for another year . In last year’s Prelim against Freo Luke Darcy was asked if they should give him another contract and he said “Of course they should . Keep him in mothballs and wheel him out for the big games.” Now they look undermanned in defence , no moreso than against W.C.’s Kennedy and Darling.
    Will be the same i fear against Adelaide’s big forwards and of course that bloody huge “Tomahawk” and that Whatsisname no. 23 for Sydney. Hoping for miracles , flukes and buckets of luck. A bit too big an ask. A few weeks ago i put $100 on them at $3.75 , ho hum

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    I wouldn’t stress too much Slim. You’ve got your bunnies this week. We will give you a reasonable training session heading in to September.

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