Hawthorn returns to the race, with a radically different approach to winning

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    Four rounds into the season, and one team in particular has obliterated preseason expectations.

    Hawthorn is back, earlier than even the most optimistic Hawks fan could’ve predicted. And unfortunately for the rest of the competition: it’s real.

    We checked in on Hawthorn – or more specifically Alastair Clarkson – thinking out loud whether the Hawks would make it back to the top of the mountain while their current coach was their Sherpa. After all, even the most long-tenured coaches of all time struggled to win premierships after more than 15 years in charge of their club.

    It is not an easy thing to do. But Clarkson, and Hawthorn, and the infrastructure the club has built over the pair’s fruitful 15-year relationship, appear on the path to do it. The Hawks are back.

    The club’s 3-1 start, with victories over three finals fancies and an honourable loss to last year’s premier, has been built on what Clarkson and his crew do best, with a tweak here or there to address a key weakness. So when I say back, I mean the Hawks we know are back. The precision-kicking, deft-touching, forward-pressuring Hawthorn we all knew and mostly detested (for competitive reasons, us neutrals loved to watch it) has returned to trash the competition.

    Through four rounds, Hawthorn has faced the third toughest schedule in the league, behind the Western Bulldogs and Sydney. But more significantly, the Hawks have pinched wins of teams expected to finish above them, and in the process improved their chances of returning to finals football.

    Tom Mitchell

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Various projection systems love what Hawthorn has done to start the year. Both The Arc and Tony Corke’s Matter of Stats have Hawthorn as a prospective top-four finisher following their start to the year, an outcome which I suspect is as much to do with equality at the top of the ladder as it does with underlying performance.

    Some tabloids think the Hawks are now a premiership favourite, but they also thought that about Melbourne, St Kilda and Essendon last year. That’s nice, but these same people also now think Melbourne is in crisis and Carlton’s rebuild is faltering. The reflexivity of football punditry grows by the week and we are poorer for it.

    I digress. Hawthorn is certainly back in the finals frame, sooner than we expected, and there’s a plethora of reasons why it is sustainable.

    Same, but different
    At the peak of its powers, Hawthorn was a precision kicking machine, that used deft skills to manoeuvre the ball around defensive zones that were the stopping tool of choice across the league. The club’s players made aggressive decisions, and those without the ball worked into dangerous spaces on the ground.

    When the ball was in their forward half, the Hawks pressured as well as anyone, with a fleet of smaller forwards that was a little ahead of its time (albeit other teams have taken the concept further in more recent years).

    As time passed, the Hawks went further down the skills path, to the detriment of pace, athleticism and physicality at the contest. It manifested in the numbers you have seen countless times before: the double digit contested possession losses, the -20 or worse differentials during finals games, and, last year, a swift deterioration across other aspects of their game.

    Of course, we know now that Hawthorn ‘consciously decelerated’ their season after four rounds, taking a no-risk approach to player health and giving some of their young players greater roles. As 2017 evolved, the Hawks abandoned their attempt to play a handball-heavy game in favour of increased kicking, with somewhat predictable results.

    This year, Hawthorn has almost certainly gone back to their premiership-winning ways once they win the ball on the outside. The Hawks have a season-long kick to handball ratio of 1.49, fifth in the league, but crucially up from 1.20 in 2017, 1.34 in 2016, and 1.31 in 2015. Kicking is up across the league, but for the Hawks it is up more than most.

    But unlike recent years, the Hawks aren’t using their kicking skills to create a stop-start phase of play. Instead, moving the ball by foot is all about taking advantage of open spaces on the ground, created by the continuous movement of their players forward of the ball. Hawthorn has only taken 80.8 field marks per game in 2018, below the league average rate (88.7 per game).

    It’s the quick ball movement the Hawks craved last year, but instead of overlap run and handballs it comes with quick kicks. Indeed, Hawthorn is averaging a turnover every 4.6 disposals so far this season, the third most frequent rate in the league. Compare that to 2017: the Hawks had a turnover for every six disposals, the most infrequent rate in the league.

    Pace is the goal, not ball control, and so far this year only one club has been able to go with the Hawks: the pace-and-space masters themselves Richmond. Hawthorn has scored 105.8 points per game – second to the West Coast Eagles – but when adjusting for the strength of their opposition the Hawks are the number one offensive team in the competition (a +19.3 on my Simple Rating System for scoring).

    Jaeger O'Meara

    (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    That’s not to say Hawthorn can’t slow the pace of play. Against Richmond this was a clear tactic, with lots of outside play and a bias to moving the ball via the boundary line. The Hawks had more field marks in that game than their season average, but still fewer than the competition average.

    Meanwhile, it pressures teams at a very high rate, and is currently second in the league behind North Melbourne for tackles per 50 minutes of opposition possession (with 73.3, North sit at 74.1, but have the Cairns game to thank for that). Added pressure around the ball is Clarkson tapping his best assets to helps address the club’s biggest weakness.

    Hawthorn’s forward line, when at full strength, is chock full of quality ball users and high pressure applicants; it’s back six is a work in progress but has shown an aptitude for quick decision.

    And, just quietly, the Hawks have a bit of leg speed through the middle of the ground, particularly when its forwards can rotate through on act as midfielders on fast break opportunities. The addition of Jarman Impey from Port Adelaide in the off season means the Hawks have he, Isaac Smith, Jaeger O’Meara, Cyril Rioli, Paul Puopolo, Luke Breust and Ricky Henderson to push through the half forward-wing areas of the ground, each with their own additional skill or strength to bring when not in that role.

    Then there’s Shaun Burgoyne, who is the most overqualified half forward flanker in the league.

    Most of these guys can also rotate through the forward line. All bar Henderson are averaging at least one ground ball get inside the Hawthorn forward 50 per game, while Breust and Puopolo are in the top 20 per game across the league, according to AFL Stats Pro.

    The eye test says Hawthorn also like to hold some semblance of structure across the width of the ground. It means one of Henderson, Smith or Impey (generally) is stationed on the opposite wing to where the play is live, while Roughead is almost always lurking forward of the ball. This stretches the ground, and helps create space for Hawthorn’s quick kicking to work into.

    Coach Clarkson is borrowing some of the principles of his former assistant Damien Hardwick’s system here. By making the whole ground live in most situations, it is difficult for opponents to defend both at the contest and in open space.

    Alastair Clarkson Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2017

    Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson. (Image: AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    The maestro, and the fallen
    Their ball movement augmented, Hawthorn only really had one more issue to address: play around the contest. So far this year Hawthorn has more or less broken even in adjusted contested possession differential (contested possessions, less free kicks and contested marks), with a differential of +1 per game on the season.

    One man is critical to this: Tom Mitchell. The league’s most prolific accumulator, Mitchell has been given the keys to run point for the Hawks as something of a point guard (apologies to those who hate mixed sports metaphors), dishing the ball to his teammates at stoppages and linking up through the middle of the ground. It makes the most of his best football skills; Mitchell has a quick handle, is outstanding below his knees, and can run all day.

    Mitchell has been pictured having length conversations with Clarkson on the bench and during quarter breaks too. It is clear he is the critical cog in Hawthorn’s machine.

    We see it in the way Hawthorn’s possession totals are distributed. Mitchell is averaging 40 touches a game, where the rest of the core midfield is hovering around 20. Mitchell has double the clearances of O’Meara (47 versus 24), and is the only Hawk with a kick-to-handball ratio of less than one.

    Melbourne blunted Mitchell’s influence in general play over the weekend, but couldn’t stop him winning the ball at stoppages. He had 13 clearances; the entire Melbourne team had 39. The talk of Mitchell being the Diet Coke of football – no calories – has faded rapidly as his role has become clear.

    Tom Mitchell Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    He is vital, but so are the club’s two primary small forwards in Puopolo and Rioli. Unfortunately for the Hawks both will be missing until the half way mark of the season, the club announcing this week the former suffered a hamstring injury and the later a medial ligament strain in his knee against the Dees.

    This will cause a shuffle of positions, with Impey likely to play more as a permanent forward, and the returning Shaun Burgoyne perhaps playing more as a high half forward once he’s back in Round 6. Will Langford, the fan’s whipping boy, will keep Burgoyne’s seat warm.

    Premature premiership speculation
    While a 3-1 start is nothing to sneeze at – the numbers suggest we can expect the Hawks to end up somewhere around 13-14 wins from here – premiership speculation is far too premature.

    Yes, Hawthorn has beaten more fancied rivals. Yes, they have a clear football identity, and a group of players who can execute. Yes, Alastair Clarkson is a warlock.

    The injuries to Puopolo and Rioli are significant setbacks. They are so crucial to the way the Hawks want to play, and bring their own unique skills when the ball hits the deck inside 50. Hawthorn has players to cover for them, but they will indeed be covering rather than replicating.

    A 3-1 start could have easily been a 2-2 start if one of a million things in their win against the Cats went differently. The Hawks also caught Collingwood before they were also tabloid media premiership contender material, and managed to discombobulate Melbourne to such a degree that Dees’ fans are dredging up memories of the dark days.

    Simply, it’s early in the season. Yes, I did say last week that we must believe what we see right in front of us, but for now, let’s be happy to call Hawthorn a likely finalist. Which in and of itself is a remarkable turn of events. The Hawks were expected to bobble around the middle of the table for a couple of years, and they had no real clear path to a traditional rebuild.

    In preparing to write this piece, I went back and had a look at the various Hawthorn columns I have penned over the years. One in particular stood out, from the 2016 preseason: Hawthorn, we (may) have a problem. In it, I went through Hawthorn’s players who were aged 24 to 28, and remarked:

    It’s not the murder’s row at the very top of the age and experience curve, but as far as middle-class talent goes, that is as good as it gets in the AFL. This group, plus some no doubt astute additions over the next few years, will be Hawthorn’s core in the years ahead. In that group are a full spine, an above-average midfield, and a world-beating forward line without Roughead.

    Given they now have Roughead back and firing, well, we can’t say we didn’t see this coming. The Hawks are back. The AFL is their world, we’re all just living in it.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (102)

    • April 19th 2018 @ 8:10am
      Thatsashame said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      Yep agree that it’s too early Ryan. I still think they will miss finals though. But I’ll pick up 1 point. Rioli. The most overrated player in the league. He hasn’t touched the ball this year so I think they’ll survive without him. They keep making excuses for him, a deft touch here, an amazing shepherd there, all excuses for him not getting the ball.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 9:15am
        andyl12 said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        “He hasn’t touched the ball this year”

        A comment like that just proves you haven’t watched any football this year. Or in the last 10 years.

        • April 20th 2018 @ 12:35pm
          Thatsashame said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          I watch plenty of football and seen him live many times. I was at the cats hawks game and he didn’t touch the ball. These so called 1% are excuses for not actually getting the ball. Most players do 1%. Because he can do amazing things people assume every time he touches the ball it’s magical. It’s not. He doesn’t do anywhere near enough for a player with 10 seasons under his belt.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:51pm
            andyl12 said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            Most players can’t do the 1%ers with the same effect as him. Sometimes five goals a game can be put down to his 1%ers.

            A far more common type of player is the stat magnet who gets 40 touches a week but goes missing when the game needs winning. Teams don’t win flags relying on these types of players.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 9:24am
        bilo said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        “Rioli. The most overrated player in the league.” disagree 100% Thatsashame. Cyril is constantly putting in the 1% and that’s what most commentators notice. Anyone who has played the game knows that players who do those types of things are gold, required for any serious premiership contender. A chase, a tackle, winning a free in the forward 50 and just pressuring a defender to miskick, he does that week in week out, that’s his role.
        You think big stat numbers are required? small forwards aren’t there to get copious possessions,

        • April 19th 2018 @ 8:17pm
          Don Freo said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          Hayden Ballantyne does that too…just for the whole game instead of a random minute here or there.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 1:42am
            New York Hawk said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:42am | ! Report

            All I remember Ballantyne doing is going missing in big games. Rioli is a big game performer. That explains a small part of why Cyril will be an AFL Hall on Famer and Ballantyne will be a guy who played in a team that lost a Grand Final.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 7:16am
              andyl12 said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:16am | ! Report

              Ballantyne was WOG in the 2013 GF.

              • April 20th 2018 @ 7:46am
                New York Hawk said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

                In pretty sure Peter Bell played a better game for Freo that day…

              • April 20th 2018 @ 8:44am
                Don Freo said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

                Peter Bell played better games than most with most of the games he played.

                You have him playing that game too?

            • April 20th 2018 @ 8:45am
              Don Freo said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

              That’s obviouly all you remember. Doesn’t say much, though.

              • April 21st 2018 @ 11:21am
                New York Hawk said | April 21st 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

                Just having a laugh that a retired player had a better game than Ballas in the 2013 GF. You might have had a better game than him too!

          • April 20th 2018 @ 9:46am
            Irie4 said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

            And I thought Ballantyne was the brand of chocolates that the Hawks won along with a few flags…

        • April 20th 2018 @ 12:37pm
          Thatsashame said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

          Most player do that. The difference with riopli is we excuse him for being quiet most games by saying he does the little things. Most players do little things but still get criticized if they’re not actually influencing a game.

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2018 @ 9:55am
        Penster said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Please.
        4 premierships, a Normie, all Australian …………. guess Clarko’s the most overrated coach too?

        • April 19th 2018 @ 8:19pm
          Don Freo said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

          Premierships say nothing about a player. Matt Spangher and James Frawley have them too…(maybe Frawley hasn’t).

          • April 19th 2018 @ 8:28pm
            Birdman said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

            He’s got one, Don

          • Roar Guru

            April 19th 2018 @ 8:52pm
            Mango Jack said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:52pm | ! Report

            Well a Freo fan would say that, wouldn’t he?!

            Cyril does things almost no other player can. His disposal under pressure to a running team mate to set up a goal against the Cats just a recent example. He is also a very tough defender, something you can’t say about many other small fleet forwards.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 8:53am
              andyl12 said | April 20th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

              Freo are one of the many teams who could’ve drafted Cyril ahead of us but instead chose a dud.

              And all these teams still whinge that Hawthorn didn’t have to use their brains to get their premierships.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 12:52pm
            Hawk Caemhan said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

            Premierships say nothing about a player ? It says that they were in the best 22 players of the best team that season. However let’s pretend that Rioli’s premierships say nothing about him, then we’ll have to listen to his Nirm Smith, or maybe his Goal of the Year in 2010 or his three All-Australians. He is a star and one of the few players who you would never trade for anyone.

            • April 20th 2018 @ 6:34pm
              Don Freo said | April 20th 2018 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

              He may also be the 360th best player in the league who has some poor judges at GF time or just a good game. Your maths is weird.

              Certainly Brian Lake only played one good quarter for Normy in 2014. He was nowhere near best. Normies say a bit more about a player’s capacity than a GF medal…but not much more.

              • April 21st 2018 @ 11:24am
                New York Hawk said | April 21st 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

                Lake won the Norm Smith in 2013, not 2014. Amazingly, that is the most accurate comment in your last post.

              • April 21st 2018 @ 1:00pm
                jonboy said | April 21st 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

                Don should have Known that one it was against Freo but he gets it wrong quite regularly when it involves Freo !

              • April 21st 2018 @ 3:50pm
                Don Freo said | April 21st 2018 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

                Are you certain I’m not right here? That’s got you confused now, hasn’t it?

      • April 19th 2018 @ 11:02am
        jacques from Lilydale said | April 19th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        You’re not watching what i’m watching mate. you have to be kidding!!

        • April 19th 2018 @ 1:05pm
          kangajets said | April 19th 2018 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          Rioli

          He is the Lionel Messi of the afl

          Fantastic player

          • April 19th 2018 @ 2:37pm
            Knoxy said | April 19th 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

            I wouldn’t go that far. But he is a fantastic player nonetheless.

          • April 20th 2018 @ 12:39pm
            Thatsashame said | April 20th 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

            Kangajets really?? 1 kick and a couple of handball and he is a legend? Sorry it’s a cop out. He can do amazing things yes….but he doesn’t do much very often

    • April 19th 2018 @ 8:39am
      Rissole said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Not sure anyone should be surprised. Hawthorn have the oldest and most experienced team in the league playing under the helm of the greatest coach of the AFL era.
      I’d write last year off as an aberration due to an extensive injury list.

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2018 @ 8:47am
      SportsFanGC said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Lot more pressure on Breust in coming weeks now that both Poppy and Rioli are out for extended periods through injury.

      They will make finals this year, which means that another team that people are hoping will sneak in like Melbourne or Collingwood are going to find it a bit tougher to break their finals duck.

    • Roar Rookie

      April 19th 2018 @ 8:57am
      Tom VDS said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Definitely exceeding expectations. Particularly agree with your analysis of Tom Mitchell. Despite all his possessions last year, it was only at the back end of the year where he looked to become more aware with where his teammates would be positioned
      Sam Mitchell had the exact same role, except he would generally distribute by foot. Win the ball in the contest, take his trademark sidestep and hit a 20m target to set up Hawthorn’s precise kicking. Tom Mitchell instead wins the ball in the contest and distributes by hand to the likes of Smith, Henderson etc who use their speed to move the ball quickly

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2018 @ 8:58am
      Dalgety Carrington said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      As usual a massive article Ryan. Hence I haven’t got through it all yet I did get caught on the question of the Hawks having the third hardest draw so far. Have they left Melbourne yet? Just comparing it to Freo’s who played Port in Adelaide, GWS in Canberra, plus red hot Essendon and Suns at home. Whereas the Hawks got a flaccid Collingwood, depleted Geelong and an up and down Demons, while the Tigers have tended to have the wood on them for awhile now.

      • Columnist

        April 19th 2018 @ 9:35am
        Ryan Buckland said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        Yep that’s a very fair point and something I had planned on putting at the end of the piece (but forgot!). Four games at the MCG, where this game plan has been shown to be very successful (see Tigers, Richmond). It’ll get much trickier for the Hawks as they start to travel – albeit they only travel outside of Melbourne or Tasmania four times (and one of those is to Perth Stadium, which has played like the MCG so far).

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2018 @ 10:00am
          Dalgety Carrington said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          Like other forms of it, there’s a lot to be said for that sort of continuity. Especially when you start to piece together some momentum. It makes it that much easier to just keep rolling into juggernaut territory.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 19th 2018 @ 10:43am
            Clarko's Knuckle Sandwich said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            You’re completely right, Hawthorn have had a bit of luck go their way this year. Taylor missing from the Geelong game when he usually carves Roughead up, the Demon’s of old rocking up to the G plus the fact we haven’t left a 15 km radius within Melbourne all month. But the Collingwood game feels like a bit of a stretch. Plus Hawthorn of last year would have allowed those times a sniff and been inept at gaining the scoreboard advantage. Barring the usual Geelong theatrics, that hasn’t happened this year.

            If they weren’t able to fire themselves up for the first game of the year, after yet another disappointing season in 2017, then they would have been easy pickings for most other teams. That is just the team they are right now. Granted they have a ridiculous amount of injuries to good players.

            • April 19th 2018 @ 11:15am
              Brian said | April 19th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              The 1 point difference flattered Geelong, Frawley was out too and if Burgoyne does not go down in the 1st quarter I doubt it would have been so close.

              Likewise the 13 point loss to Richmond flattered Hawthorn who were well beaten. I agee 5th-8th looks most likely. If I had to guess based on the fixture
              3-1
              (ES) NM Win 4-1
              (YP) St Kil Win 5-1
              (MCG) Ess 50-50 6-1
              (MCG) Syd 50-50 6-2
              (G) Bri Win 7-2
              (YP) WCE Win 8-2
              (YP) PA 50-50 9-2
              (MCG) Ade 50-50 9-3
              (YP) GC Win 10-3
              (SS) GWS Loss 10-4
              (ES) WB 50-50 11-4
              (YP) Bri Win 12-4
              (ES) Carl Win 13-4
              (OS) Fre 50-50 13-5
              (MCG) Ess 50-50 14-5
              (MCG) Geel 50-50 14-6
              (ES) St Kil Win 15-6
              (SCG) Syd Loss 15-7

              So on current form 15 wins looks a fair guess which should give them a fair shot if they can get everyone fit for September

              • April 19th 2018 @ 12:42pm
                Birdman said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

                ssshhh…..one week at a time, Brian

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2018 @ 5:09pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | April 19th 2018 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

                Yeah Easter Monday probably flattered Geelong a little, but they also had not only Taylor out but Henderson too and their backline was fairly young and makeshift.

                Hawthorn ran out with a substantially older team on average than Geelong in that game, playing the oldest team of the year and a full +2.27 years older than the Cats, with zero under 21’s while Geelong had 5. Any substantial age gap generally makes a big difference to win/loss ratios in favour of the older team.

                Whereas against Richmond the age gap was not that big at +0.59 years (while against Collingwood it was +1.95). Not the be all and end all, but a vital ingredient nonetheless, particularly with the discipline/structure heavy game style Clarkson likes to test the opposition with.

                You’d think the Hawks age would trend down for a while yet this season too. It’ll be interesting what difference losing Rioli & Puopolo will make this week and how much they go youth or experience for replacements.

              • April 19th 2018 @ 8:22pm
                Don Freo said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

                Frawley being out is a bonus for Hawthorn. He’s very slow and lacks a fair bit.

              • April 19th 2018 @ 8:30pm
                Birdman said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

                Who said he’s out, Don?

              • April 19th 2018 @ 8:58pm
                Don Freo said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

                Brian stated that Frawley out was a loss.

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2018 @ 8:55pm
                Mango Jack said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

                I almost wish he was.

              • April 20th 2018 @ 9:25am
                Birdman said | April 20th 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

                Frawley named in the team – the guy has missed a lot of football so the rust is kind of understandable

              • April 20th 2018 @ 7:25pm
                Doctor Rotcod said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

                You’ll find them playing the Eagles at Etihad, not York Park. A loss for the Hawks

              • April 20th 2018 @ 7:48pm
                Birdman said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

                York Park – indeed it is – always good to see venues being respectfully called by their rightful names not their current commercial identity.

    • April 19th 2018 @ 10:03am
      reuster75 said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      “Of course, we know now that Hawthorn ‘consciously decelerated’ their season after four rounds.” Nice euphemism for tanking and curious that the AFL didn’t investigate that given how harshly they sanctioned Melbourne for doing the same thing a few years ago. Tanking has and always will exist in the current draft and salary cap system and I don’t have a problem with it, rather just bemused that yet again the AFL pick and choose who they punish (and I am Geelong supporter so i’m not writing this from a Demons perspective).

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Penster said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Except the Hawks didn’t tank, they finished 12th, missing out on finals by 6 points and a stack of %. Last 5 games were WLWLW. They played catch up on getting game time into the youngsters.
        Light years from Melbourne’s effort.
        Can’t you tell the difference?

      • Roar Rookie

        April 19th 2018 @ 10:14am
        Tom VDS said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        Don’t know if you can say Hawthorn ‘tanked’ last year? Did suffer significant injuries to experienced players who missed the majority of the season, forcing them to play young guys like Burton, Hardwick etc.
        Demons got punished because they wanted early draft picks, Hawthorn gave up that right! Their first pick last year was #45

        • Roar Rookie

          April 19th 2018 @ 10:24am
          Clarko's Knuckle Sandwich said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          The obvious difference is Hawthorn had nothing tangible to gain from “tanking”. Our draft hand was massively depleted regardless and we would have only handed St Kilda a higher pick if we had actually given up on the year. It was simply foresight on the part of Clarko and the club to realise we weren’t a threat and to use the 2nd half of the year post bye to experiment. There is a massive difference between that path and the one that Carlton and Melbourne chose to go down years ago.

          We mostly gave injured players (Rioli, Birchall, Frawley, Puopolo, Stratton) the remainder of 2017 to rehab before a big pre-season, while accelerating the development of our younger tier that have strengthened the squad as a whole this year.

        • April 19th 2018 @ 3:33pm
          Birdman said | April 19th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          Pick #45 James Worpel – bookmark that name – will be a star.

          Oh Wrighty, you’ve done it again 🙂

      • Columnist

        April 19th 2018 @ 10:27am
        Ryan Buckland said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Those were Clarkson’s words, not mine by the way. And I’m fine with it – it’s just an optimal strategy.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 19th 2018 @ 10:48am
          Clarko's Knuckle Sandwich said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          It’s paying dividends far sooner than I thought. I keep thinking that the same holes we had last year, a nervous backline and a thin band of specialised mids, will be exposed this year but it hasn’t happened yet. Though the Tigers showed us how much more development we have to go before we are a serious contender this year or next. We were flattered by that score a little.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 11:14am
        jacques from Lilydale said | April 19th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

        Tanking??? Injuries and father time made decisions for them. the earliest draft pick was in the 40’s so if the tanked it was an abysmal failure. They brought in home grown talent who have done their apprenticeships. Burton, Hardwick, Sicily, O’Brien, Kayden Brand, David Mirra, Daniel Howe, Harry Morrison will all be long term players for this club. Get your blinkers off Reuster75, this team will be terrorising the competition again for the coming decade.
        Spoken like a true Geelong flog also, by the way.

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