Sunday, May 21, 2017

View from the Outer, Round 9, Collingwood versus Hawthorn

The metaphor of a boxer with a glass jaw comes to mind after watching Hawthorn’s meek capitulation to Collingwood at the MCG last night. The Hawks were dominant in the first half only to see the Pies expose and fully exploit the Hawks’ noted weaknesses thereafter. Hawthorn’s game plan that once facilitated a dynasty comparable to any in the history of the game was left in ruins through changes in the Hawks' line up that highlighted many inherent issues. Opposition teams have helped further Hawthorn’s demise by using evolved tactics that have fully exploited the Hawks' many flaws. The first half was the quintessential false dawn with Hawthorn reminding everyone of their past glories where they dominated the Pies to lead by as much as 43 points, but this was as much about Collingwood playing into Hawthorn’s strengths, much like the Brisbane Lions did last week. Their slow and conservative movement early on gave rise to the biggest lead of the game by allowing the Hawks to set unyielding defensive zones combined with a press deep into Collingwood’s forward 50. But as soon as they got on their bikes and took the zones on, it was easy to put Hawthorn to the sword. The Hawks’ midfield that was superb in the first quarter blitz stood out as paper thin and was too easily matched and bettered. Tom Mitchell deserves credit for his extraordinary 50-disposal game, but he is a virtual lone ranger that rarely gives oppositions cold sweats in possession - a brilliant natural ball winner but rarely a ‘facilitator’. Liam Shiels was excellent in the first quarter but disappeared after that and youngster Daniel Howe was workman-like. The lack of quality and supporting depth makes our midfield the weakest in the AFL and all our issues stem from it. This is evident from our struggling to win the ball and our average decision making and execution when we do. The result sees oppositions empowered by their run out of our defence that more often than not leads to easy goals in transition or out the back when they kill us on the spread with run and skill. This issue is accentuated by the dismal turnovers in neutral zones that have been a consistent trend all season long and were on display last night. It rendered a forward line, which was threatening in the first quarter, toothless through the sub-standard entries fracturing the structure within it. The space to lead into or duck back was gone through the laboured entries making it easy for the Pies to defend by zoning back and then turning defence into lethal attack. Hawthorn's defensive pressure, that was brilliant early in the game, dissipated allowing Collingwood an easy exit out and victimisation of our defence. The defence was missing key men in James Frawley and Ben Stratton. Their absence was keenly felt and caused the defence to resemble a piece of Swiss cheese: soft with many holes. Collingwood took advantage of this after half time, kicking eight goals to one. Their procession of goals was made easy by the absence of two-way running from our midfield in support. It would be easy to blame the result on injuries and a lack of many incumbents as well as having two pull out at late notice, but it was more about the absence of quality within the 22. Too many were either non contributors or found out for their inability to perform at this level. This grim reality does not augur well when looking forward to next Friday night when the Hawks will face a genuine team of quality in Sydney.

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