Friday, March 24, 2017

Preview, Round 1, Essendon versus Hawthorn

Walk into the Boardroom at our spiritual home, Glenferrie Oval, and you know what it means to be a Hawks fan

Hanging high amongst the trophies the Number 5 of the 'Little Fellow' Peter Crimmins as a tribute to our past Captain and one of our finest players who lost his battle with Testicular Cancer in 1976. The respect and love for Crimmo set in stone forever in 2004 when our Best and Fairest Award was changed to the 'Peter Crimmins' Medal in his honour

Over a tragic 2 year battle starting in 1974 where a nagging groin injury was diagnosed as Testicular Cancer our reputation as the 'Family Club' was fully defined. A full gamut of emotion, from heartbreak on hearing the diagnosis to hope for a recovery and return to the team for the 1975 Grand Final against North. Only to have legendary coach John Kennedy Snr refuse Crimmins a place in the team out of fear for his health.

Crimmo never played again

It ripped all the faithful from deep within. We were the best team in 1975 but were absent on Grand Final day leading to a heavy defeat and a vow amongst the playing group and coaches commandeered by stand-in skipper Don Scott in its wake to win in 1976 for Crimmins. Following through on the promise as Crimmins stood on death's doorstep, grimly holding on to witness the game with many players sharing the spoils of victory at his death bed soon after the match finished.

41 years on the reminisce looms large on the return of another beloved Hawk Jarryd Roughead after winning a battle with Cancer.

Setting up the perfect stage against our most hated foe Essendon where he will lead the team after being given the Captaincy in the offseason in his return game in front of a likely 80000 strong crowd at the MCG

Think of what it represents to a playing group all in awe of Roughy and how much of a factor it will be when looking forward to the clash.

The Game

The midfield battles will determine this clash with the ruck being key.

It will determine whether both teams can conceal their exploitable weaknesses while supporting their noted strengths.

In Hawthorn's case, a questionable defence lacking big man support in the key posts outside of full-back James Frawley along with a forward line that looks lethal if given adequate supply. A failing pivotal in the team's struggles in 2016 with it betrayed by a midfield that routinely got smashed week in and week out.

Essendon represents the other side of the coin, a fine defence particularly in the key posts as opposed to a forward line that lacks trusted avenues to goal.

From the Hawks viewpoint, it is a massive season for Ben McEvoy in the ruck who has mostly disappointed since being recruited from StKilda in 2014. With Jonathan Ceglar who was progressing nicely as a number one ruck in 2016 lost for the season with a knee, it puts real acid on McEvoy to lift.

A more pressing concern with the absence of the third man up in support in ruck contests.

He needs to at least break even to give a new look Hawk midfield the chance to edge the crucial battles of winning the first ball.

Opposed to an accomplished Dons onfield brigade, this will not be easy. Most think the emphasis will fall on gun recruits Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara to sway the ascendency, but the players in support are as crucial in a midfield department having questionable depth.

Roughead is likely to add a string to the bow with his understated ability as a big midfielder along with new Vice Captain Liam Shiels. Shiels is amongst the best defensive midfielders in the game but needs to add more to his attacking aspect in 17, and beyond.

Leading us to the speculative entities, Will Langford and Billy Hartung.

As an onlooker, I struggle to see the justification of either when a real gem in Kade Stewart was overlooked. Hopefully, it points to a late change with the young tyro coming in on the back of a preseason where he impressed all with his polish in disposal, underrated pace and toughness.

Ricky Henderson who joined the team in a trade from the Crows looks a real steal. He reminds me very much of Simon Beaumont, who joined us from Carlton in 2004 with him representing a super utility able on any line. Notably, playing as an undersized key back to free others or as a big wingman.


Most see this game as a toss of a coin with many selecting Essendon to win on the back of their returning players from their drug bans in 2016.

But, inspired by the meaning of Jarryd Roughead's return, I cannot see us losing

We will win, and win easily

Hawks by 7 goals

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