On a wet Sunday afternoon, Melbourne got an early jump on Hawthorn, and it looked ominous. This is where Melbourne supporters might need to look away, because it doesn’t make for happy reading if you are one. Hawthorn fans on the other hand will relish the fact that their side fought their way back and pummelled the Dees into submission. The win did come at a significant cost, however, as Hawthorn lost two of their jets in Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo to serious injuries.
The afternoon started with a Hawthorn goal courtesy some smart play from Luke Breust, but it looked like it would be one-way traffic from there as the Dees piled on 5 unanswered goals. Jesse Hogan was running riot, Max Gawn was winning every hitout, and the ball was relentlessly surging into Melbourne’s attacking half. All this lasted until the 29th minute mark of the first quarter. Hawthorn fought back before quarter time with 2 goals, and we looked set for some classic wet weather footy.
Hawthorn came out in the second quarter intent on balancing the ledger, and slowly chipped away from there. With the conditions getting wetter, Hawthorn took the “back-to-basics” approach of winning the scrap and attacking in straight lines. On the other hand, the Dees seemed reluctant to play this style, and kept resorting to their slick, possession-based game, which came unstuck. Their defenders also insisted on pressing really high rather than hanging back and playing goalkeeper in the wet. This resulted in a lot of goals on the rebound, as Hawthorn got out behind the Dees’ defenders and made life hard for them.
By the time the fourth quarter came around, Hawthorn had kicked 8 goals while limiting Melbourne to none. Despite the Hawks being down on rotations, the fourth quarter took a similar path, and the Hawks piled on the pain, kicking 7 goals to Melbourne’s 1. In the end, Hawthorn’s relentless efforts saw them overrun the Dees by 67 points in less-than-ideal conditions, and further proved that the Hawks could be serious contenders this year if things go right.
David Mirra was impressive in his debut. The veteran defender shut down Jesse Hogan and will slot into Hawthorn’s defence nicely. Ben Stratton and James Sicily were instrumental in how the defensive structure set up. Tom Mitchell was tagged out by Nathan Jones, but still managed to have an influence on clearances and stoppages and collected 24 touches. Jaeger O’Meara and Liam Shiels stepped their game up to cover for the influential onballer. Ben McEvoy was beaten in the ruck but was crucial to clearances with his second and third efforts. Hawthorn won the clearances 56-38 despite losing the hitouts 34-72.
Jarman Impey impressed again, combining contested ball intensity with hard gut running. With Puopolo and Rioli missing, he will be even more important to the Hawthorn structure. Luke Breust was influential in Hawthorn’s scoring with 4 goals, while Roughead and O’Brien provided 3 goals each.
It will be interesting to see which players come up to the side to replace the injured stars. Hawthorn do have a few options. They could play Taylor Duryea forward and bring Ryan Burton back to make it a taller defence. They could also call on Mitchell Lewis or Ryan Schoenmakers to make it a taller forward line. Shaun Burgoyne looms as a likely forward once he recovers from his hamstring issues. It will be tough going, but the Hawks have been here before.
What excites me the most is the brand of footy the Hawks are playing. They have certainly balanced the contested ball ledger through Mitchell and O’Meara, and Impey adds real dash and x-factor to this side. The one thing the Hawks will need to watch out for is conceding 3-4 goal advantages early in the game and will want their defensive structures to settle a bit earlier in the game. In any case, there are some exciting games coming up, and if they play their cards right, Hawthorn will be well placed to challenge for finals after just one season of rebuilding.
HAWTHORN 3.5 7.5 11.7 18.7 (115)
MELBOURNE 5.5 5.9 5.11 6.12 (48)
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Roughead 3, O’Brien 3, O’Meara 2, Smith 2, Gunston 2, Puopolo, Henderson
Melbourne: Kent 3, Hogan, Salem, Neal-Bullen
Hawthorn: Shiels, O’Meara, Sicily, Breust, Impey, Howe, Smith, Gunston, Roughead, Puopolo
Melbourne: Jones, Oliver, Neal-Bullen, Petracca
Hawthorn: Frawley (migraine), Rioli (medial ligament), Puopolo (hamstring)
Melbourne: Jetta (leg)