Sunday, April 5, 2015

Preview: Round 1, Hawthorn versus Geelong

The off season transforms every footy fanatic into feeling like an impatient kid stuck in the back of the family car on a long trip.

Are we there yet....Are we there yet...Are we there yet.....

A few hours from the sun rising on Easter Monday, the wait is over

With 85000 fans of Hawthorn and Geelong waking from their dreams of what might be for the new season for their first slice of what is.

The Teams

HAWTHORN


B: Shaun Burgoyne, James Frawley, Brian Lake

HB Will Langford, Josh Gibson, Ben Stratton

C: Isaac Smith, Sam Mitchell, Bradley Hill

HF: Luke Breust, Jack Gunston, Liam Shiels

F: Paul Puopolo, Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli

FOL: Ben McEvoy, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis

I/C: Taylor Duryea, Jed Anderson, Matthew Suckling, Jonathon Ceglar

EMG: Billy Hartung, Jonathan O'Rourke, Ryan Schoenmakers

GEELONG CATS


B: Jared Rivers, Harry Taylor, Corey Enright

HB: Cameron Guthrie, Tom Lonergan, Jed Bews

C: Mathew Stokes, Joel Selwood, Andrew Mackie

HF: Jimmy Bartel, Mitch Clark, Mitch Duncan

F: Steven Motlop, Tom Hawkins,Steve Johnson

FOL: Mark Blicavs, Josh Caddy, James Kelly

I/C :Nakia Cockatoo, Cory Gregson, Darcy Lang, Dawson Simpson

EMG:George Horlin-Smith, Jordan Murdoch, Billie Smedts

Glancing over the teams, two recruits from Melbourne stand out and the improvements they offer both teams.

Starting with Hawthorn, the capture of James Frawley offers the team that vindicated 2nd key backman they have lacked. Huge in itself, but, the positive ripples it sends through others in the team is as decisive. It will mean that the likes of Josh Gibson armed with his golden fist will be freer to smash up more opposition attacks as well as become more of a factor rebounding. Likewise, the midfield will not be expected to work as hard back meaning leading to the sharpening of their attacking prowess.

Similarly, the effect that Mitch Clark could represent to Geelong's forward line could see the Cats rise to be a flag threat in 2015. It will dictate that opposition defences will now have to pay respect to another vindicated forward threat rather than just having a soul focus on stopping Tom Hawkins. As well as making the genius of Stevie J when he rests forward all the more deadly dangerous.

The battle in the midfield

As with any game against two fine teams, the midfield battles will be pivotal. 

It will be intriguing whether the coaches go head to head  or employ tags. The likely target for Hawthorn is Geelong captain Joel Selwood, a champion who always looms large in these epics. One can see the Hawks rotating on him with the likes of Liam Shiels, Will Langford, Jordan Lewis and even Paul Puopolo. A focus for all in this defensive role will be targeting Selwood's torso when tackling him to minimise the frees he milks.

Likewise for Geelong, they must stop, or at least minimise the effect that Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis have.

Good luck with that Chris Scott!

A highlight of the game will be the clash on the wings between the Hawk jets in Brad Hill and Isaac Smith and the Cats Mitch Duncan and Steven Motlop

The decisive factor affording midfield edge could be found in the rucks. 

On this point, I think Geelong might struggle to match Hawthorn

Forward/ Backs match-ups

Starting with Geelong's forward line, I anticipate these duels

Lake versus Tom Hawkins
Frawley versus Mitch Clark
Stratton versus Stevie J, when he is forward

Geelong running a progressive tag on Josh Gibson to limit his zone off prowess and his ability to impact on Tom Hawkins and Mitch Clark. They will instruct their players up the field to go through Gibson opponent at every chance to make him accountable ensuring one on one contests for their power forwards.

As for Hawthorn's forward line:

Taylor versus Jarryd Roughead 
Lonergan versus McEvoy/Ceglar when they rest forward
Enright versus Cyril
Rivers versus Gunston

I can see Hawthorn using Paul Puopolo as a defensive forward on Geelong's defensive general in Andrew Mackie.

The key worry for Geelong is that there is no good match up for Luke Bruest. One can see this role being entrusted to Jed Bews with the Hawks seeing it as a match up that they can ruthlessly expose.

The Hodge Factor 

Forward, back, midfield, and getting in all the players ears before the game and during the breaks

When does Captain Fantastic not loom large in a big match?

Prediction

Round 1 always offer up skewed results as seen already in the Demons and Adelaide beating touted top four contenders in GCS and North.

Meaning it would not surprise if Geelong won, but, the overall class of the Hawks makes me think that even if they are rusty they will still be too good for the Cats

The Hawks by 28 points

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