Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My Hawthorn team for the Melbourne clash

Alastair Clarkson’s post-match press conference call for “catastrophic changes” went viral last weekend, with many speculating on which big names would face the axe. Leading the response from the football world was Brisbane Lions’ legend Jonathon Brown who, on Fox Footy's On the Couch show, placed the blame for Hawthorn’s current woes largely at the feet of Jack Gunston, Luke Breust, James Frawley, Ben Stratton and Isaac Smith. Brown remarked, “when the going gets tough and you have to compete for the contested ball, they can’t handle it…that is my concern and that is why Hawthorn is struggling at the moment.” This observation puts a damning focus on the free ride enjoyed by many of Hawthorn’s players during its recent period of premiership success. It is easy to conceal an individual player’s true worth when they have been shielded by a team of superstars surrounding them. Whilst valid, this critique offers only half the truth behind why the Hawks have spectacularly fallen from grace. A key part of opposition teams’ successes against the Hawks over the past 18 months has been their dissection of Alastair Clarkson’s game, putting a focus on the one flaw in Clarkson’s renowned coaching genius, the absence of a Plan B. During these glory years, which culminated in the team’s miraculous three-peat of flags, Richmond and Port Adelaide always troubled the Hawks’ juggernaut by exposing this failing. The Tigers deprived the Hawks of space by reverting to old style man on man contested footy while Port took a more daring trek with their run and gun style coupled with their abundance of x-factor. This schooling gave rise to the current dominant teams with their marriage of both a heavy emphasis on contested footy, coupled with relentless two-way running in both attack and defense which renders Clarkson’s uncontested game style obsolete. This brings us to Clarkson’s foreboded ‘catastrophic changes’, an admission of the desperate need to shape a new game plan and perhaps the seeking out of names to face the first raindrop in the waterfall of a rebuild. It is inevitable that a few noted names, along with those youth who are not up to it, will feel the axe. My Hawthorn team versus Melbourne B: Blake Hardwick, James Frawley, Ben Stratton HB: Grant Birchall, Kaiden Brand, Luke Hodge C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Jono O’Rourke HF: Dallas Willsmore, Tim O’Brien, James Sicily F: Cyril Rioli, Jarryd Roughead, Kade Stewart R: Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels, Jaeger O’Meara INT: Ryan Burton, Shaun Burgoyne, Harry Morrison, Daniel Howe IN: Grant Birchall, Cyril Rioli, Jono O’Rourke, Dallas Willsmore, Harry Morrison, Kade Stewart, OUT: Josh Gibson (managed), Billy Hartung, Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo, Jack Gunston, Will Langford, Team Rationale Many fans will be critical of the team because of a lack of emphasis on more kids along with including some older players despite conceding we are in full rebuild. My response is that a balance has to be maintained between youth and experience to make the team cohesive. The challenge is in also being discerning - not playing kids for the sake of playing kids but identifying the ones to fully invest in. Billy Hartung has had many chances and while the team needs his pace, he is so lacking in other areas that one can only conclude that he will never make it. Will Langford suffers the same fate with his foot skills in no way at AFL standard. To fill the breach in the midfield, Jono O’Rourke comes in with his mix of inside/outside potential. I was torn about whether to add Ty Vickery to assist in the ruck and forward but Tim O’Brien has been very capable in this role and needs to be persisted with. Jack Gunston, Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo are made examples of and youngsters Dallas Willsmore and Kade Stewart assume their roles forward. Willsmore should play as a wing/high half forward where his scything left foot can be fully utilised and Stewart should take Poppy’s defensive forward role. The returning Cyril Rioli takes the other vacant position forward. Grant Birchall’s return to fitness provides the perfect excuse to axe Josh Gibson. Out of respect for him as a champion of the club I have listed him as ‘managed.’ The truth is that his playing skills have vastly diminished and Clarko playing him as a loose man out the back is no longer working with opposition teams devising new tactics to counteract this. Gibson should retire mid-season to allow the youngsters to have some much needed game time. The last inclusion of Harry Morrison is a bit of a roll of the dice. He is the godson of past player and club coach Ken Judge and although a polished player, has a lovely bit of mongrel in him. I think he could surprise us in a similar fashion to how Blake Hardwick has thus far, off half back in a utility role.


  1. Similar thinking to me refer to Facebook post ... I'm not sure about Gunner & Poppy would prefer Gunner to play true CHF role & Poppy play more midfield.

    1. Poppy is too limited for the mids

      As for Gunston, love him as a player but his attitude at times has sucked this year. In his defence, frustration would play a huge part but still he needs to be better