Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What is Hawthorn's Best 22 for the Finals?

September 1 means two things, the start of Spring, and the beginning of another AFL finals campaign for the Hawks

The stand out of this campaign as we gun for the 4-peat is the absence of certainty within our 22 with positions still up in the air with many possibilities. Past years have seen a host of quality options fighting for the last spots whereas this season has concluded with many in the team by default rather than on merit.

The Certainties

B. Stratton, Frawley, Gibson

HB. Burgoyne, ???, Birchall

W. Smith, Mitchell, Hill

HF. Rioli, ???, Bruest

FF. ???, Gunston, Poppy

R. McEvoy, Hodge, Shiels

Int. Lewis, Duryea, Whitecross, ???

From the team against the Pies, Ben Stratton will automatically come into the defence as well as Ben McEvoy to assume much of the rucking duties.

The dual between Fitzpatrick and youngster Pittonet for the second ruck role ended in a non event with Fitzpatrick sealing the role for his performance against Collingwood. One culminating in kicking the winning goal and looking so cool with his complete lack of celebration

This is where things start to get complicated.

Starting in defence.

There is little doubt youngster Ryan Burton was very able playing the second big defensive role against the Pies. A performance that certainly sealed his position in our best 22 for the finals but will Clarko turn to him to continue in this role or will he look to bring in one like Kaiden Brand?

The catchline in this debate is preserving Josh Gibson's role as a zone of defender which is so pivotal in Clarko's game plan of team defence. As well as being just as crucial in the rebound out of defence and transitioning into attack.

I would stick with Burton as the second key back, keeping in mind how crucial Ben Stratton's return will have in assisting him in the role. The vastly underrated Stratton is not only the virtual human blanket on the AFL's best small/mid forwards but represents the swiss army knife persona with his versatility as well as being sublime with his ability to aid others.

The Attack

The key question here is the 2nd big forward role and whether it is a choice between Ryan Shoenmakers and James Sicily or both being included

I think both look like they will struggle against real quality in finals. The other factor in this is both could be victimised and become a point of attack for the opposition as well as usurping the effectiveness of our forward line.

We saw this against WCE where McGovern dominated us by marking everything that came into our forward line as well as impacting on all other contests. Against Geelong Harry Taylor awaits, and one fears he could be just as decisive.

I have no faith in either and would be tempted to drop both and bring in Kaiden Brand to play as the second key back and play Ryan Burton forward. I think this young tyro could surprise, very like a young Dermott Brereton did as a 17 year old when unleashed on the 1982 finals.

The call to drop Sicily is cruel with him playing all season and being admirable but I think as the season has gone on teams have figured him out and he will be victimised in finals as a very exploitable weakness in our 22.

As will Shoenmakers

Position 22

This has me pondering three players:

Billy Hartung- His run is lethal on the MCG in support of Hill and Smith, but he is very weak in the contest as seen in him missing many tackles in recent games

Do his potential benefits override his obvious flaws?

Daniel Howe- The versatility of this youngster is appealing, with him able to play on any line. He has desperation as well as classy skills "

Will Langford- He has gone from being a difference maker circa 2014 finals, with us in awe of his kamikaze pack breaking bursts and team lifting goals to circa 2016, where he leaves us with head in hands with his flawed skills.

My Best 22

Stratton, Frawley, Gibson

HB. Burgoyne, Brand, Birchall

W. Smith, Mitchell, Hill 

HF. Rioli, Burton, Bruest

FF. Fitzpatrick, Gunston, Poppy

R. McEvoy, Hodge, Shiels

Int. Lewis, Duryea, Whitecross, Hartung

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