This would be my choice of team for this week:
B: Daniel Howe, James Frawley, Ben Stratton
HB: Blake Hardwick, Ryan Burton, Shaun Burgoyne
C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Taylor Duryea
HF: Luke Breust, Tim O’Brien, Jack Gunston
F: Will Langford, Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli
R: Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels, Luke Hodge
INT: Harry Morrison, Brendan Whitecross, Kade Stewart, Billy Hartung,
IN: Harry Morrison, Kade Stewart, Brendan Whitecross, Taylor Duryea,
OUT: Grant Birchall (inj), James Sicily, Paul Puopolo, Josh Gibson (managed),
Whilst I have been calling for Josh Gibson to step aside for a while now, this is now unlikely given Grant Birchall's leg injury. If Birchall had have returned to the team without incident it would have been the ideal time to re-model the team’s defence around youth, guided by a few experienced mentors and suggest to a vastly diminished Gibson that he consider retiring.
Ryan Burton was exceptional as a second key defender against Melbourne and needs to be persisted with in that role. Daniel Howe continues to impress as a marking and rebounding defender and Harry Morrison comes in for his first game, to be rotated in defence.
In the utility role, Brendan Whitecross gets a long overdue recall to the team. He is a player that never lets the team down and adds leadership but seems to suffer from being an all round solid player rather than having a standout elite quality. It seems that the club overlooks Whitecross because of a perceived lack of impact. This pays little respect to his potential value as he is a solid performer in a team otherwise suffering from an inconsistency of effort.
I would re-instate Taylor Duryea to the team but rather than in defence, I would unleash him on the wing.
The axing of fan favourite Paul Puopolo will upset many but aside from a few games this year, he has been very average. With the club embracing a re-build, it is an ideal time to insert someone like Kade Stewart in this defensive forward role. Kade is a youngster that will play the role with due aplomb but also offer an upgrade with his potential in the midfield.
James Sicily- Player Review
The main reason I’ve suggested that Sicily be dropped this week is in relation to the spray he copped from a few senior players during the third quarter of last week’s game, when he showed disrespect to Captain Jarryd Roughead. This wouldn't have gone unnoticed and it is a near certainty that he will be sent back to Box Hill for an attitude adjustment.
On the field he has struggled, with Michael Hibberd exposing his flaws too easily during the Melbourne game. His lack of ability to play at ground level to match his very capable marking skills renders him very exploitable from a defensive viewpoint.
The Demons coaching staff provided the blueprint for Sicily by playing a running defender on him that was above average overhead, which countered his strengths in this area, while ruthlessly victimising him from a defensive viewpoint. It stood out that Hibberd had 27 possessions with 6 rebounds out of 50 while playing on Sicily which was only bettered by Jack Frost (7) during the match.
On two occasions in the third quarter, Hibberd won possession in transition, breaking easily through Sicily's attempted tackles, which facilitated rebounds in both instances and resulted in goals out the back.
Too often this season, Hawthorn has been killed on the spread with its opposition’s quick rebounding out of defence leaving it vulnerable to being heavily outscored. To counteract this, all of Hawthorn’s forwards need to be strong defensively. At present, Sicily is a long way from being acceptable in this regard and needs to go back to Box Hill to focus on honing these skills.