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Match of the Day: Hawks give Pies a lesson in skill

Tom Mitchell shrugs off Steele Sidebottom on his way to a record-breaking 54-possession haul for Hawthorn at the MCG. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Match of the Day: Sharper skills give Hawks points over Pies

Rohan Connolly    

Effort will take you a long way in AFL football these days. Just ask Richmond and the Western Bulldogs, two teams not necessarily seen as gifted but the AFL premiers of the last two seasons.

But effort can’t stand on its own. For all their pluck, the Dogs and Tigers still managed to nail other of the game’s fundamentals, like hitting targets, converting opportunities and making the smart decisions with the ball.

And when two teams’ effort is equal, it only stands to reason that the one with the sharper tools in the kit bag will get the job done more effectively. That’s pretty much how Hawthorn beat Collingwood by 34 points at the MCG on Saturday night.

Collingwood got just the start it wanted when Ben Reid marked and goalled only a minute into the game. That was the result of an attacking drive started by Darcy Moore in defence, a momentary vindication of the Pies’ decision to switch ends with either player.

But it was arguably also the cleanest passage of play Collingwood would produce all night. And while the Pies stayed in touch on the scoreboard, the Hawks were doing their scoring a lot easier.

Their first goal was a good example, a clean centre break from Jaeger O’Meara, who’d racked up eight disposals already just midway through the first term, followed by a lovely pass from Jack Gunston on to the chest of Shaun Burgoyne, who of course converted.

Hawthorn might be a side transitioning, but its class at the top end is still a powerful weapon indeed. Burgoyne’s second was thanks to more of it, Cyril Rioli chasing down Brayden Maynard, the ball turned over and straight into scoring territory.

Indeed, Rioli would turn in an even bigger effort for another goal in the second term, this time picking himself up off the ground after one attempted tackle to again get a hand on an attempted Collingwood handball, swooping on the spills and dishing a pass off to Ricky Henderson, who ran in for the easiest of goals.

Collingwood’s goals came more from one-offs, lovely snaps from tight angles coming from Ben Crocker and Will Hoskin-Elliott, Steele Sidebottom grateful for an errant handball from Taylor Duryea.

The Pies were still level 12 minutes into the second term, though, before the discrepancy in ball use began to be reflected on the scoreboard, Hawthorn booting five of the last six goals of the quarter to go to half-time with a 27-point lead.

Tom Langdon was unlucky (but correctly penalised) for taking Gunston’s legs, before Rioli’s magnificent effort set up Henderson.

Crocker had his second, but the Hawks finish to the quarter was seamless. First, Isaac Smith bombed one from outside 50 metres. Liam Shiels did likewise from the same MCG members’ stand forward flank.

And the last was invention at its best, Gunston, quite deliberately from deep in the pocket sending a soccer-like cross from the corner flag into the goalsquare, Henderson off the ground planting the ball in the “net” as efficiently as anything you’d see from Sergio Aguero.

Don’t get the impression, though, that this was just about polish. Because Hawthorn’s industry was also something to behold, none the least the amazing game of midfielder Tom Mitchell, who clearly doesn’t mind a game against the black and white.

Mitchell had returns of 50 and 35 disposals against the Pies last year. On Saturday night, it was a lazy 54, the most ever recorded by an individual in a game since such records have been kept.

He’d had 29 just to half-time, and in the final minutes of this game, with the result locked away, Hawk fans were cheering every touch as they would a goal. Along with O’Meara’s eventual 27, the pair gave their side all the opportunities it required. And unlike their opposition, they were opportunities taken.

The examples continued on into the second half, Luke Breust’s first goal of the third term coming after he seamlessly balked then blind turned two defenders hard up on the goal line.

Steele Sidebottom, once again helping keep Collingwood afloat, managed some tricks of his own to set up a reply from James Aish. But Hawthorn just had more players capable of a higher standard at critical moments, another symbolic moment coming late in the term after 15-odd minutes of goalless arm wrestle.

Smith’s untimely spray at an umpire was penalised not far from goal on a very slight angle, the normally reliable Scott Pendlebury gifted the chance to pull the margin in to under four goals.

He missed. And in Hawthorn’s next attack, Paul Puopolo won a race with Hoskin-Elliott, turned the Pie inside out, then dished off a pass to his forward terrier colleague Rioli, another Hawthorn goal the result.

Even then, oh so briefly in the final term, more optimistic Pie fans retained hope. They dominated the inside 50s in the opening 10 minutes. But only goals to Moore and Josh Thomas resulted.

There were more dropped marks and missed targets. And finally, tiring though they were, the Hawks slammed the door shut with a goal to Jarryd Roughead.

Hawthorn has both the oldest and most experienced list in the AFL. But when it’s biggest guns fire, it also has still close to the most polished.

For Collingwood, the problems remain the same. Not enough skill. Poor conversion. And while again in defeat you couldn’t question the Pies’ effort, even now the extent of those handicaps pretty much outweigh the benefits of the latter quality.

HAWTHORN 4.4 10.7 13.9 15.11 (101)
COLLINGWOOD 3.4 6.4 7.6 9.13 (67)

GOALS – Hawthorn: Breust 4, Burgoyne 2, Gunston 2, Henderson 2, Smith, Shiels, Rioli, Schoenmakers, Roughead. Collingwood: Crocker 2, Reid, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott, Sidebottom, Aish, Moore, Thomas.
BEST – Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sicily, O’Meara, Gunston, Smith, Breust. Collingwood: Sidebottom, Treloar, Crocker, Pendlebury, Murray, Stephenson.
INJURIES – Hawthorn: Burton (ankle), McEvoy (cork thigh)
UMPIRES: Nicholls, Fleer, Mollison
CROWD: 58,051 at the MCG

1 Comment
  1. Best summation of the game so far. I know my Hawks probably aren’t in flag or even top 4 calculations BUT they will upset some very good sides throughout the year. Good to see Hardwick, O’Meara, Howe, O’Brien & some other of similar age & minimal games to their name starting to cement their spot. I watch for those guys probably more week in week out than the older guys cause they are the future & our next opportunity to win a flag.

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