Should Clarko have kept his holding the ball reservations to himself?
After Hawthorn’s victory over North Melbourne last week, Coach Alastair Clarkson shared his strong opinions about the AFL’s adjudication of holding the ball each week. Nobody who heard his press conference would have been left in any doubt about the four time premiership coach’s belief that the game would be improved if the rule was enforced more often.
When a person with the standing of Clarko speaks, the AFL listens and so it was in this instance. All eight games of Round Five completed before Hawthorn played GWS it was clear that the umpiring fraternity had taken Clarko’s opinion on board. Yet rather than becoming a beneficiary of the changed interpretation, Clarko and the Hawks were arguably the biggest losers of the crackdown.
In a match in which his team lost the free kick count 26-12, Clarkson had to wait until the fourth quarter and see his team penalised 10 times before earning their first holding the ball free kick. It’s the kind of outcome that reminds us of Grant Thomas’ battle with the umpiring department in 2005 that was followed by the infamous ‘whispers in the sky’ match against Fremantle. Coincidence?
How the Game Was Won
Conspiracy theories aside, this game was won by a remarkably efficient performance by GWS. Despite entering forward fifty just 26 times they scored 18 times. In contrast the Hawks managed 14 scoring shots from 38 forward entries.
GWS forwards Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson did much of the damage kicking eight goals between them. Yet despite the Giants ruthless efficiency the margin was just 10 point the difference at half time. It prompted a withering burst after the break with five goals in ten minutes to wrap up the contest before the final change.
What the Coaches Said
Giants Coach Leon Cameron was pleased at his side’s efficiency going forward but was concerned with their lack of entries. “(The) pleasing thing is that we did use it well when we went in there and looked really dangerous but I think specifically in the second quarter we only had four inside 50’s when they dominated and got back in the game” he told reporters before vowing. “So we’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can raise the bar in that part of the game because if its in there it gives us a chance to score but equally it’s down our front end and we don’t have to defend as much. It was pleasing that we scored in there but clearly we need more,” he said.
Post Match Alastair Clarkson also spoke of the unusual nature of the result in relation to the match stats. “Looking at the stats there were a lot of things that went in our favour,” he told the assembled reporters. “We won clearances well. And if you had said we won those two stats (clearances and inside fifties) by plus ten or more at the start of the game we would have been more than happy that we were going to win if that was the case. But it wasn’t the case,” he said before taking time to praise the Giants.
“They were just really polished with the footy when they went inside and took their chances,” he said. “On the flip side we couldn’t take our chances anywhere near as much. Part of that was due to the pressure that was applied and at crucial stages they applied the pressure a little better than we did.”
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 4.1 5.2 11.3 13.5 (83)
HAWTHORN 0.2 3.4 7.6 7. 7 (49)
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson 4, Himmelberg 4, Cameron 2, Mumford, Lloyd, Greene
Hawthorn: Gunston 3, McEvoy 2, Burgoyne, Puopolo
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson, Himmelberg, Kelly, Perryman, Whitfield, Haynes
Hawthorn: Gunston, O’Meara, Mitchell, Smith, McEvoy, Worpel
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Hawthorn: Jack Scrimshaw (foot), Mitch Lewis (hamstring)