After enduring a torrid start to 2017, Hawthorn will be happy to have started the 2018 season with a win. It was great to see our young talent on display, and I was delighted that Jaeger O’Meara showed the footy world exactly why Hawthorn sold the farm to get him on board. However, as I always believe, it will serve the Hawks faithful well to take it one game at a time. Enjoy the journey, and relish the fact that despite not having a strong draft hand for years, we have managed to get some good youngsters through the door. At the same time, realise that while they get used to the game plan, and fit into the structure, there will be mistakes.
In my tips for this round, I had the Hawks winning by 4 goals. We started promisingly, with O’Meara winning the first 3 clearances. We looked good as a team, and the midfield seemed to be functioning a lot better with O’Meara supporting Mitchell. However, we seemed to struggle with taking a contested mark in our attacking 50 and were making too many skill errors.
The Hawks then clicked into gear, and Mitchell dominated. Actually, dominated is an understatement. Let’s just say that he confiscated the footy, and others had to ask him permission to actually touch it. Through his dominance, and some precision footy from experienced players like Shiels, Breust, Rioli and Smith, the Hawks widened their lead in the second quarter, kicking 6 goals to 3. The Pies struggled to build any sort of momentum, and were carried solely through the work of Steele Sidebottom, who tried on numerous occasions to spark them into action.
The Hawks tightened their grip in the third quarter, kicking 3 goals to 1. After a very brief Collingwood fightback in the last quarter, the Hawks kicked the last two goals of the game to extinguish any slim hopes that Nathan Buckley and Co would’ve had.
It was great to see that even legends of the game aren’t beyond learning new facets, as Shaun Burgoyne was thrust forward. It was great to see him there, and I think he provides a level of certainty and calm to a mercurial forward line. He is also a great reader of play, and creates opportunities for players around him.
Then there is Cyril Rioli. Boy, have Hawthorn missed him. I have always argued that his contribution cannot be measured in possessions alone. His pressure and one-percenters helped set up Hawthorn in attack numerous times. Puopolo proved the willing ally, adding his own tacking and chasing pressure, and constantly harassing the inexperienced Pies’ defence. Gunston was good, and Breust chimed in with 4 priceless goals.
The midfield looks a lot more potent with Mitchell and O’Meara in the engine room, and Jarman Impey is a welcome addition. Impey’s pace combines well with his willingness to attack the contest, and he will be a very handy player for us in the long term. This solid core also allows Smith and Henderson to resume their roles on the wing, providing us with much-needed dash. The defence looks settled with Frawley and Stratton back, but it was Sicily that was most impressive with his intercept work and contested marking. With these three as the core, and Hardwick, Tim O’Brien and Burton supporting, the Hawks defence is zoning really well to negate opposition attacks.
Overall, it was a very satisfying outing, although Burton’s injury is not what we needed. Kaiden Brand should be able to step in and fill that role if he is out for a game or two. I noticed two distinct Hawthorn styles last night – one that relies on the uncontested run and carry, and the other that is prepared to scrap when things get ugly.
We have 3 very tough rounds coming up, and I would be satisfied if we win one of these three games. In saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we decided to click into a higher gear and sprung a surprise or two. Either way, a few interesting weeks of footy ahead.
HAWTHORN 4.4 10.7 13.9 15.11 (101)
COLLINGWOOD 3.4 6.4 7.6 9.13 (67)
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Burgoyne 2, Gunston 2, Henderson 2, Smith, Shiels, Rioli, Schoenmakers, Roughead
Collingwood: Crocker 2, Reid, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott, Sidebottom, Aish, Moore, Thomas
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sicily, O’Meara, Gunston, Breust, Smith, Burgoyne.
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Treloar, Thomas.
Hawthorn: Burton (ankle).
Umpires: Mollison, Fleer, Nicholson.
Official Crowd: 58,051 at the MCG.