Thursday, March 30, 2017

Preview, Hawthorn versus Adelaide Crows

After a very disappointing display in Round 1, the last thing Hawthorn needs is to test its very exploitable weaknesses against a white-hot, strong Adelaide Crows unit - a Crows unit with a very strong and balanced defence that is perfectly equipped to nullify Hawthorn's potentially lethal forward line while punishing them on the rebound. How well the Crows spread with selfless gut running to accentuate the ping out of defence is compelling, supported by a superb midfield, both inside and out, with exquisite skills and high calibre decision making. Their lethal jets set alight a forward line resembling murderers’ row with their quick and pinpoint delivery, or their running through the lines to kick goals themselves, as exemplified by the 10 out of 22 majors from midfielders during the dismantling of a very accomplished GWS unit in Round 1. Of additional concern to Hawthorn is its response at the selection table to Round 1’s disappointing performance. All does not seem well with the Hawks as 4 players have been axed from the team for the Round 2 clash. The selection panel has lost patience with 3 of our younger players which doesn’t auger well as we try to replenish our ageing list. The response of this Hawthorn team will represent a watershed moment in 2017. The Game When the respective teams were announced the first head scratcher was how Hawthorn's undersized defenders will deal with the Crows stellar, tall forward line. It made me think of a game of 'fill the gaps': James Frawley- Taylor Walker Ben Stratton- Eddie Betts Shaun Burgoyne- Charlie Cameron ???- Josh Jenkins ????- Tom Lynch ??????- Mitch McGovern Ideally Clarko would like to facilitate the loose man allowing Gibbo or Hodge to zone off and assist in the duels as a third man up destroyer but the Crows are unlikely to allow this. Josh Gibson will likely mark Jenkins, with Birchall and Henderson matching up on the remaining two. All three potential duels should favour the Crows, bringing into question Alastair Clarkson's obsession with playing undersized defenders in these key posts when the likes of Kaiden Brand are continually overlooked. If he doesn't play either Kaiden Brand or Kurt Heatherley then why didn't the Club go harder to get Jake Carlisle at the end of 2015? Carlisle would have been a steal compared with Steven May from GCS who they seem to be pursuing at great cost. Pass the Valium, PLEASE! Tactically, attempting to stop opposition forwards merely with direct opponents is a worry, making it all the more important to control supply from the opposition’s midfield and rebounding defence. Crucially, matching the Crows inside mids and preventing them from getting it to the outside, where our lack of outside run is evident, is a huge concern. One of the few solaces from the defeat to Essendon was the new look midfield matching the Dons in the contested ball and clearance statistics. The downside was our average use of it going inside 50, where despite having 59 forward 50 entries compared to Essendon's 56, we still lost by 25 points. We constantly failed to lift our heads hitting up the best target, instead aimlessly bombing the ball into the forward line and leaving our backline badly exposed on the rebound. It highlighted the loss of Sam Mitchell, who was renowned as an 'extractor' but was rarely given equal dues as the teams’ 'facilitator' with his sublime football skills combined with incomparable footy smarts. Hawthorn need to make this a big focus if they want to stand any chance against the Crows. Clarko needs to lift in the coaching box as well – he had a very average outing against the Dons. Pivotal to his performance was his decision to move Liam Shiels from a more attacking midfield role where he was very good in the first half to quieten Zac Merrett, who was running rampant. It served the purpose but robbed us from an attacking vantage. A better move would have been to assign Will Langford to this role, to take advantage of his defensive abilities whilst concealing his flawed foot skills in a ‘run with’ role. If Clarko decides to assign a tag in this game, it needs to be Langers. Lastly, the forward line needs to lift. Whilst it was betrayed last week by poor midfield delivery, too many had off days along with many missing easy shots on goal. Bad kicking is bad football - an old adage that will always run true! Prediction I think the Hawks will rise with a far better effort this week, but I struggle to find any justification for believing we will win the game. When compared to the completeness of the Crows, Hawthorn is going to look very vulnerable and this is likely to be reflected in their ladder positions at the end of the season. I see Adelaide as a genuine flag threat whereas Hawthorn is likely to finish between 9th and 12th. Crows to win by 20 points.

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