Last week, we asked the question: Is there anything better than beating Essendon? The answer is, yes, there is. It is beating Geelong after beating Essendon. As we have come to expect from these clashes, drama and suspense are never far away, and there are more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel. This was exactly how the game panned out, with Hawthorn weathering the storm to run out 11-point victors.
The game started as a dour affair, with both midfields locked in an arm-wrestle. Scoring was tough, and Hawthorn couldn’t even register a major in the first quarter. From there, it was a classic display of pressure and skill that gave Hawthorn the ascendancy. The Hawks kicked away in the second and third quarter to give themselves a 34-point buffer at three-quarter time. The Cats then went on the offensive, kicking 3 goals in a row, before Jaeger O’Meara kicked the sealer with a minute left on the clock. The Hawks celebrated a well-earned win, which sees them sitting 4th on the ladder with 2 rounds to go.
What was most impressive was how Hawthorn’s young midfield beat the much-vaunted trio of Ablett, Dangerfield and Selwood. Hawthorn simply beat the Cats at their own game and relied on keeping possessions and taking uncontested marks to frustrate the opposition into making errors. Once they did, Hawthorn penalised them on the turnover. The tackling pressure was also the best I have seen in a long time, and it was led by none other than Shaun Burgoyne, who laid a game-high 14 tackles, and also had 7 clearances and 11 contested possessions to boot. With Tom Mitchell kept relatively quiet early on in the game, Burgoyne, O’Meara and Worpel were instrumental in providing Hawthorn with the grunt and pressure required to keep Geelong at bay. It is easy to see why Clarkson signed the silky veteran on for one more year.
It surprises me that Worpel dropped to pick 45 in the draft, and that there were doubts over his disposal and kicking. In saying that, you are a product of your surroundings, and Hawthorn have made an art form of picking diamonds in the rough and providing them with the support and training to get the best out of them. Worpel looks like he is made for this stage, and his courage and hunger for the ball are second to none. The prospect of having him run around with Mitchell and O’Meara in the midfield for the foreseeable future is an exciting thought. Ricky Henderson and Jarman Impey played a crucial role early in the game, while Isaac Smith was pivotal in getting the Hawks going with two early goals.
I felt our defence was a major factor in our win. Frawley and Brand did well to keep Hawkins to a solitary goal, while Stratton and Hardwick too crucial intercepts to set the Hawks up in attack. I also feel that Burton is finally recapturing his form from 2017. Once Sicily is back in the side, it gives us some diverse and unpredictable options both in defence and attack. In the absence of McEvoy, Ceglar has stepped up beautifully. He played another good game, racking up 23 hitouts and kicking an important goal. What I like about Ceglar is his willingness to lay tackles and provide good second efforts when the ball is in dispute.
Pittonet was also impressive with 25 hitouts. While he will be the unlucky ruckman to miss out when McEvoy returns, he looks ready step up to the task should the occasion arise again. Conor Nash may have only had 5 touches, but also laid 5 tackles for the game, two of which set up goals. There is a massive upside to his game, and it will be interesting to see how he is used in the future. In a low scoring game, both Gunston and Breust proved their worth with 2 goals apiece.
While it was a nervous wait to the final siren, I was glad the game panned out the way it did. It was a good lesson in persistence and patience for our younger players, and these are crucial attributes to have in a finals scenario. If the Hawks can consistently produce the pressure and hunger they showed in the second and third quarter of this game, they will prove hard to beat. With two rounds to go, the possibility of a double chance seems a lot more realistic than it did early on in the season. Whether it happens or not lies in Hawthorn’s hands. Either way, we have an exciting couple of weeks coming up! Go Hawks!