Bemusement is what I settled on.
With me puzzled over a host of issues. Notably our slow starts that have killed us all season and bewildered as to why they keep plaguing us.
Is it complacency, lack of intensity, or a lack of hunger?
Adding to this is our forward line that on paper has a real murderers row look about it resembling The Simpsons in its dysfunction. Why does it keep shooting blanks with its cohesion a part of memory as well as the surgical accuracy that made it so devastating?
Luke Bruest has gone from 'Mr Automatic' anywhere in the 50 metre arc in 2014 to having doubt etched all over his face every time he lines up for a goal. Gunston has been afflicted by similar zips and do we want to talk about Roughy?
We are waiting for him to grab games by the throat like he did in the Finals last year, but, more often than not, he frustrates.
Not helping matters has been the skewed nature of the players further up the field in feeding the forwards.. The skills and decision making that is usually of the highest calibre has been frustratingly lacking. A more surreal aspect of this is the second guessing that has symbolised our forward entries with players forsaking justifiable shots on goal by attempting to set up players with almost impossible passes.
One knows after nearly spontaneously combusting watching the rubbish the team delivered against the Saints Alastair Clarkson will get in a few faces and demand more. Making them know that the season starts now and if they do not deliver he will not care for reputations.
Supporting this is feeder club Box Hill where the form of many players demand consideration, and if the spluttering continues in the team, Clarko will not ignore them.
The 2nd Half
The resurgence needs to come from the midfield. Teams have schooled themselves on the lessons learnt from the 2014 Grand Final where Sam Mitchell was allowed to run free and duly dominated laying it on a platter for his teammates. It has prompted a return to old school tight tags in 15 on him in the knowledge that he is still the key man that makes the Hawks midfield tick.
When shut down it has exposed our lack of depth in inside mids with the inability of others to step up. It used to be the recently retired Brad Sewell that ran shotgun for Mitchell by picking up his slack when he was shut down. Will Langford did this with gobsmacking devastation in the finals of 2014. Frustratingly, in 2015 he has lacked the same lustre with him still winning the contested ball, but letting himself down by butchering it with his skills and decision making.
Last year we were so used to watching him trust his instincts, bursting out of packs with his jets on overdrive kicking team lifting goals. Whereas this year, he has lacked the same trust and been caught in possession as a result confounded by his doubt.
He looms as a key man for the rest of the year with others like Liam Shiels, and potentially Jono O'Rourke.
If we can get a lift from the midfield engine room, the domino effect on the rest of the team will give our rivals cold sweats
The jets of Isaac Smith and Brad Hill on the outside who are arguably the best in the AFL with their combination of devastating line breaking ability combined with goal kicking threat. They have been made more deadly dangerous by the emergence of Billy Hartung into our best 22 and Jed Anderson with his added X factor waiting in the wings.
Similarly, James Frawley's inclusion to the defence has given it a look of impregnability. He has reminded the AFL fraternity just how good he is as a pure defender with a rare combination of ox-like strength and pace of the mark making him a nightmare for any forward. His excellence matched by Brian Lake whose form has been so stellar that it would not surprise if he is a bolter for the All-Australian team.
Come finals, good luck scoring on this defence!!!!!!!
Back to the forward line......
Should we roll out a few clichés like, 'runs on the board' & 'form is temporary, but class is permanent' to alleviate our concerns?????????????
Wise counsel, with the forward line akin to a sleeping giant awaiting awakening.
Lastly, we have seen a fit Cyril Rioli who seems to gaining confidence in his body by the game. Do not be surprised if he lights it up when it really matters.
Strap in tight fellow Hawkers, the team just needs a bit of subtle tinkering to get back into top gear. And, if injuries are kind, the Hat-trick of Flags is still very much on!