Sunday, April 23, 2017

View from the Outer (M7), Round 5, Hawthorn versus West Coast Eagles

Hawthorn’s winless start to the 2017 season and the torrent of critique directed at the team and the individuals within it has awoken the ‘angry ant’ within master coach Alastair Clarkson. His defiant resolve seems to have hardened even further over the past few weeks and he has now revelled in silencing the club’s many vocal detractors.
His show of faith in many struggling incumbents, when there was ample justification for a few notable axings, along with his resounding endorsement of the club’s under-fire youth was compelling. The playing group responded in kind with their renewed efforts, chasing and harrying in a relentless fashion which saw them outnumber their Eagles opponents at every contest. One of the standouts in the game’s statistics was a season high 75 one percenters, as opposed to only 54 in the preceding smashings by Geelong and the Gold Coast Suns. The Hawks’ work rate was underpinned by supporting tactics that rendered the West Coast Eagles team impotent from the first bounce. They dusted off ‘Clarko’s Cluster’ which exposed the absence of the Eagles’ outside run and led to them being stifled and suffocated in the unyielding zone whilst giving rise to structure in the Hawks team which has so far been lacking this season. The fulcrum was the performance of an under fire midfield that has spluttered for most of 2017. Ben McEvoy was herculean in a best on field display, assuming much of the ruck duties while providing a real presence that has so far been absent this year. He dominated with 43 hit-outs and took some telling contested marks around the ground. Others rose in the face of his inspiration, in particular Tom Mitchell, Will Langford and Liam Shiels who each dominated in tight and prevented the opposition from spreading on winning first ball and exploiting Hawthorn on the outside; which has been the main failing of the team in 2017. In fact, the duo of Isaac Smith and Billy Hartung held sway on the outside with these players providing a much needed line-breaking threat. It gave some overdue protection to a defence that has been under siege all season while providing structure to a forward line that has been dysfunctional. The most pleasing aspect of the defence was the performance of a trio of youngsters. Kaiden Brand looked very capable and composed in a key position role by standing firm in the one on one duals against the dangerous Eagles’ talls, with his combination of strength and pace off the mark. On the flanks, Ryan Burton looks a future star and Blake Hardwick is reminiscent of Brent Guerra, oozing the same scything skill by foot, rabid in the contest and tough as old boot leather. Up forward, the structure was renewed by individuals going back to the roles that made the attacking third so feared. The pressure acts of Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo were telling with both players igniting the rest of the attacking third with their enforcement of the relentless pressure of 'Clarko’s Cluster'. Cyril, in particular, was stellar. He reverted back to his predatory ways, giving all opposition players cold sweats. It was also a welcome sight to see Poppy shelving his recent obsession for speccys and going back to the blue collar defensive entity that made him such a respected player. Jack Gunston starred when returned to his characteristic roaming position forward, away from the wing. Luke Bruest was similarly effective. Lastly, Tim O'Brien finally repaid some of the belief shown in him when given the 23 guernsey by kicking three goals and taking some brilliant one grab marks. All in all a great day at the MCG capped off by Roughy kicking his 500th goal in the dying stages of the game. Let’s hope it is the fire-starter for better times for Hawthorn in 2017!

1 comment:

  1. It was great to see big boy return to form. He has to be our most important player now the third man up rule has changed. Gave our midfielders first use of the ball where we have been smashed in the first four weeks and taking pack marks at will was a sight to see. Note to Clarko: Please leave Henderson at Box Hill, his disposal by hand and foot are not only up to AFL standards, they are certainly not up to Hawthorns lofty expectations.

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