Round 5 – North Melbourne v Hawthorn: The Limits of Eyesight

At North Melbourne vs Hawthorn last night at Etihad Stadium, the crowd spent the entire match booing Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis and I didn’t know why. The next day on TV I saw that Hodge had shoved a forearm into Andrew Swallow’s throat, captain to captain. I did see Lewis collecting Todd Goldstein, which later produced an atmospheric photo, sweat flying, nose crunched.

Hawthorn are now comparable to Brisbane in 2003-4. They have the double premierships under the belt and their actual playing method is honed. When we watch them now we want to see their aura. Like Brisbane of their later era, Hawthorn mysteriously lose the inconsequential close ones now, and when it happens it’s an event.  The Essendon miracle and the Port blitz will still be memorable come Brownlow time. Twisting that, maybe it’s credit to Hawthorn’s fighting qualities that all of their losses are tight, and involve a comeback of some sort.

Aura, however, is only what happens AFTER a physical match involving 42 players. It happens in the newspapers. It has nothing to do with anything onfield, except occasionally when we feel the mood of the match shift when the going gets tough. The Hawks, rather, win because of the simple universal sporting truth that whoever consistently gets more players to a loose ball will consequently win the match. Those numbers also close in like a net without the ball, giving very little space to the opposing attacking team.

North Melbourne were in the match for half of the first quarter at three goals each. It was around that time that Hodge and Lewis lost their minds. The Roos were a nonentity after that. When I think about it, the current Kangas formula, one part inspirational to one part disappointing, has been their standard for an entire decade.

I amused myself watching their little manoeuvres for the last three quarters. Sometimes North would be forced to kick to desperate one-on-two situations, relying on an otherwise anonymous Drew Petrie and for Michael Firrito to take the mark or lose the situation. They delivered, allowing me to marvel at their marking prowess and their faith, if only for a moment. That was generally North’s problem all night, dishing off handpasses to teammates who were shadowed by Hawks and in no position to receive the ball. North would also try to work their ‘kickouts’ to the 50-metre line with handballs over the top, an acknowledgement that the Hawk’s zone was wrought with difficulty. The plan failed.

For Hawthorn, of course, it was about more than just some scattered moments. Sam Mitchell purred and yet always appears to have all the time in the world to pick an option. Jack Gunston was always on the lead to various angles. Shaun Burgoyne’s long kicks into space were occasionally sublime.

The Hawks scored twice at the end of the first quarter and twice at the start of the third, leaving us wondering what the big deal had been in the second quarter. Neither team was able to penetrate the opposition 50-metre arc, leading to a quarter that ended at exactly 25:30, the shortest I’ve witnessed. Brad Scott rued this quarter as something of a lost chance for North, but it was really an odd quarter where the play kept breaking down at the half-forward lines. Hawthorn made sure that they were always two-on-one in the air. Given Hawthorn’s dominance the rest of the match, I wish I had paid more attention.

The end involved the contrast of North finally stringing together a lovely end-to-end move that they messed up with a handball one metre out from goal, and Hawthorn’s breathtaking half-back to goal three-man move involving Hill, Ceglar and Mitchell.

Still, in the absence of any scoreboard tension, of course this match was about two moments. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to stick it to the honourable, good-looking Andrew Swallow, but he was in the wars on multiple occasions last night, which provoked multiple old-fashioned brawls. I haven’t worked out if Hodge and Lewis’ momentarily mind lapses cut into the aura that is Hawthorn or not, lessen their gravitas. The thuggery certainly gels with that Brisbane team of years gone by, the Riewoldt-shoulder-bashing over-the-line hardness that made us sometimes hate them.


May 2, 2015 at Etihad Stadium

NORTH MELBOURNE  3.1   4.3    7.8     10.10 (70)
HAWTHORN                     6.4   7.8  12.13  19.16 (130)

North Melbourne: Brown 3, Thomas 2, Petrie 2, Swallow, Higgins, Cunnington
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Ceglar 3, Roughead 3, Gunston 3, Smith 2, Rioli, Lewis, Mitchell, Hill


3 Mitchell            2 Gunston           1 I Smith

About Marty Gleason

As a toddler-ish Footscray fan at Western Oval in the 1980s, I collected rocks while Mick Malthouse climbed a ladder to sit in the coach's box on top of a pole. I think about those four games in 2016 every day.


  1. aussie80s says

    I think North Melbourne may have caused their own problems with this match by making it the 40th anniversary game to hold a re-union night for the 1975 premiership.

    Hawthorn probably did their own take at looking back at 1975 and the famous audio of John Kennedy from that game urging the players to “Don’t think, Do”. Hodge and Lewis appeared to follow that mantra perfectly. Hopefully they cop no more than two each as we can afford to rest them against GWS and Melbourne but need them for Sydney.

  2. aussie80s, Hodge and Lewis should cop meaningful consequences for pissweak acts of thuggery. That wasn’t “as it should be played” or a harkening back to any nostalgic “man’s game”, it was punching blokes in the head unprovoked.

    Pathetic, and they should both get 3.

  3. Marty Gleason says

    Maybe that 75 stuff did affect Hawthorn, maybe it annoyed them. As for North, when else could they do it? It’s logical to focus it on the game they play Hawthorn. Or are you saying they could have celebrated 75 without focusing it on a particular match?

  4. Grant Fraser says

    Glad we have got the opposition premiership reminiscin’ out of the way (’75 and ’85) so we can play footy in the first half in future instead of the weird stuff we dished up in rounds 2 and 5….if that in fact be the cause.

  5. daniel flesch says

    Interested the umpire who crashed into Luke Breust when he was already down on his knees was excused because “Umpires’ eyes are not trained that low ” , but a player whose eyes are on the ball and accidentally makes contact with an umpire is in trouble. Double standard . And crap.

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