After ripping Adelaide apart in the second half of the game last week, Hawthorn were tipped to make light work of the struggling Suns outfit in Launceston. They managed a 53-point win, but it was far from pretty. With both sides struggling for polish and finish, class proved to be the difference in the end as Hawthorn secured an important win to stay in the hunt for September.
The start was almost as painful as Jack Gunston’s mishap in the warm ups, as the Suns jumped a sluggish Hawks outfit to claim a series of entries inside their attacking 50. They could not capitalise though, and Hawthorn managed to keep the margin to within 9 points at the end of the first quarter. It was pretty much all Hawthorn from there, as the Suns bumbled their way around and couldn’t even manage a goal in the 2nd or 3rd quarter. This is not to suggest that Hawthorn were at their best. Both sides could not seem to kick straight, especially in front of goal. The Hawks also seemed to over-possess the footy earlier in the game, making for some frustrating viewing.
Stellar efforts from Jack Gunston and Luke Breust kept us in front however, and when the levee finally broke, the Hawks managed to put some distance between themselves and the faltering Suns, slotting some percentage-boosting goals in the process. Despite this, I don’t think Alastair Clarkson will be pleased with the missed opportunity to claim a better percentage boost.
Despite the dull affair, I think there were several positives to be drawn from the game as a Hawks supporter. The relentless work of the underrated Liam Shiels deserves to be recognised. Shiels is one of those players that constantly flies under the radar because he goes about his business quietly. The steely midfielder was always on hand to provide the Hawks with some grunt and clearance work. He was also instrumental in distributing the footy and setting up play when things were looking a bit stagnant early on.
Jaeger O’Meara once again displayed why the Hawks sold the farm to get him across. His talent has never been in question, and any doubts regarding his injury troubles should well and truly be dispelled by now. He has built steadily this season and provides Hawthorn with strong tackling aggression and clean disposal. O’Meara does not rack up the numbers that Tom Mitchell does, but he certainly complements Mitchell with what he brings to our midfield.
Jarman Impey is a great pick up for the Hawks and provides some great pace and carry. What I like about him is the ability to switch well between uncontested and contested football as required. Daniel Howe has been impressive since his return to the side and provides us with the urgency and confidence needed when we go into attack. Ryan Burton is also regaining his touch after a quiet start to the season. Harry Morrison is another youngster that seems to improve each week, and despite not getting huge numbers, he gives us dash and attacking impetus.
Jack Gunston provided the goals on a day where they seemed hard to come by. Despite being limited by his calf issue, he managed to slot 3 goals, and provided us with a target deep in attack. I love his versatility in moving between defence and attack, which allows us to throw the likes of Ceglar and O’Brien into the forward line, giving it some unpredictability. I have noticed that his presence also enables Breust to play his role a bit more freely. Tim O’Brien played one of his better games for the year, taking 8 marks and kicking a late goal. It will be interesting to see what happens when Ceglar returns to the side next week.
Based on our upcoming games, we are touted as firm favourites to play in September. To do that however, we need to ensure that we are on from the first bounce. The Hawks in 2018 have been notoriously slow starters with a percentage of 80 in first quarters. In tight games against good sides, it is easier to establish a lead rather than play catch up footy.
I still firmly believe we will get better this year as we head towards September. However, we are a side that is still learning, and a lot of the players are still familiarising themselves with the system. Optimism needs to be tempered with common sense, and I think a finals finish in itself will be a huge win for us given where we were last year.
HAWTHORN 2.1 5.7 8.13 13.18 (96)
GOLD COAST 3.4 3.6 3.9 5.13 (43)
Hawthorn: J Gunston 3 L Breust 2 D Howe I Smith J O’Meara J Roughead L Shiels P Puopolo S Burgoyne T O’Brien.
Gold Coast: Wright 2, Lynch 2, Sexton.
Hawthorn: Shiels, Breust, Mitchell, Sicily, Gunston.
Gold Coast: Harbrow, Lynch, Lyons, Swallow.
CROWD: 9,007 at University of Tasmania Stadium.
UMPIRES: Stevic, Stephens, Gavine, Whetton.