I’ll be honest with you, Roar readers – I’m dead tired.
Thursday night sees Hawthorn take on Richmond at the home of footy, with both sides coming off less than desirable results in Round 2.
Damien Hardwick’s men will look to keep their 52-week undefeated streak alive against the bottom-five Hawks, who suffered a 61-point loss last Friday night at the hands of Geelong.
In the season re-opener Richmond drew with Collingwood in a game of two halves, trailing by 14 points at halftime before clawing their way back into the contest with their relentless pressure onslaught to scalp two points.
Thursday night’s match will be won and lost in the midfield, with both sides struggling to gain midfield supremacy in their Round 2 match-ups.
Hawthorn lost the clearance count by 18 last Friday against a dominant Geelong midfield, including Joel Selwood and Brandan Parfitt, who racked up 16 clearances between them.
While Richmond just won the clearance count against Collingwood, they allowed their most prolific midfielders to get off the chain, conceding a combined 58 disposals to Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom.
The battle between Tom Mitchell and Trent Cotchin in the middle will be a sight to behold. Mitchell has struggled to get up and going during the first two rounds, averaging just 23 disposals, a career low (albeit with reduced quarter length).
Cotchin fired on Thursday night, with the skipper clearly best afield for the Tigers. A match-up between these two is brewing, with Hardwick using Cotchin to curtail the influence of some of the game’s best midfielders on multiple occasions.
Whether Cotchin receives the run-with role or not, the battle between these two elite midfields will win or lose the game for their respective teams.
Liam Shiels will more likely than not receive the role on Dion Prestia, who has struggled with a tag in the past. Dustin Martin will likely stand side-to-side with Shiels at the opening bounce but will spend extended periods of the game at full forward to limit the impact of the tag.
Richmond’s defence will be given the task of stopping Luke Breust, who has begun the season with four goals in the opening two weeks. Nathan Broad seems the most likely match-up for Breust, shutting down Jamie Elliott last week. If Broad is able to limit Breust’s scoreboard impact, it is hard to see Hawthorn finding enough avenues to goal to put up a winning score.
Down the other end, James Fawley, Ben Stratton and James Sicily will face the steep challenge of shutting down the most potent tall forward duo in the competition. Frawley shut down Tom Hawkins last weekend, limiting the All Australian full forward to no score. The likely opponent for Frawley is Jack Riewoldt, who similarly struggled last weekend, also not registering a goal.
The problem for the Hawthorn defence is despite the possible restriction of Jack Riewoldt, they still have to find an answer to the Coleman Medal favourite Tom Lynch. Lynch booted three goals against Collingwood and if Hawthorn are to stand a chance on Thursday night, they must ensure their system is strong enough to prevent Lynch from getting the ball in his hands.
Richmond have won the last five matches between the two opponents with a 36-point win in their last meeting in Round 9 last year. Dustin Martin was best afield that day, with 37 disposals and two goals.
Unless Hawthorn are able to limit the impact of Richmond’s star players, it is hard to see them coming away with the four points, leaving them with just one win in their first three games and well behind the pack in their attempts to get back to finals footy.