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AFL West Coast v Hawthorn, Round 23, Optus Stadium.
Hawks cheersquad (file photo/AFANA)

The Hawthorn Hawks won a rare interstate victory against the West Coast Eagles to elevate themselves to a group of five teams who sit half a game out of the top eight. In a remarkable transformation, the Hawks are the only team along with Carlton to have won their last five games. Today's victory was also significant as the Hawks have not won on the road since early last year. Their victory was based on winning clearances, moving the ball out of packs, maintaining forward pressure, and controlling the tempo of the game. West Coast entered the match with one their strongest lists for some time but were outplayed in most areas of the game and appeared to lack desperation and a willingness to run and compete. The loss will raise more questions on whether coach Adam Simpson is the best man to rebuild the team.

Meek marks in backline
Lloyd Meek (file photo/AFANA)

The Hawks put their stamp on the game early with emerging (former Docker) ruckman Lloyd Meek working in the ruck against an underdone Matt Flynn, giving his midfielders first touch of the ball. Conor Nash, Jai Newcombe, James Worpel, and Meek himself outplayed the Eagle midfielders Elliot Yeo, Harley Reid, and Tim Kelly by dominating clearances at stoppages and setting up Hawk attacks. Once the ball entered their forward line the Hawk midfielders structured themselves defensively to lock the ball in their attacking zone for long periods. Initially the Hawk dominance of territory did not translate into goals, but with the ball entering the Hawks' attacking fifty-meter arc sixty times during the match compared to the Eagles' paltry thirty-three entries, something had to give. Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass did well in the air for the Eagles' defense and Liam Duggan along with Alex Witherden, and Jayden Hunt did their best to withstand the onslaught; but with the Eagles' midfielders unwilling to match the run and spread of the Hawthorn midfielders, the Hawks eventually wore down the Eagle defense.

The Eagle forwards were starved of opportunities and when the ball did move into their forward line, insipid delivery placed them under undue pressure. Jack Darling failed to take a mark (catch) and Jake Waterman took two; with only Oscar Allen only able to grab six marks. The only key forward to kick a goal for the Eagles' was Jake Waterman, but he was injured early in the third quarter along with ruckman Matt Flynn. At the other end, Mabior Chol provided a target for the Hawks. He only kicked two goals, but when the Eagle defenders spoiled the ball to ground, their smaller players either gathered the ball or applied defensive pressure to cause turnovers. The defensive pressure applied by the Hawk forwards also resulted in poor upfield delivery field by the Eagle defenders. Consequently, the Hawk midfielders Dylan Moore, Connor Macdonald, Nick Watson, and James Worpel consistently won turnovers and thumped the ball back into attack. The Eagles midfielders Reuben Ginbey, Reid, Kelly, and Campbell Chesser were reduced to chasing and tackling and lacked their usual precision when attacking forward.

AFL West Coast v Hawthorn, Round 23, Optus Stadium.
Liam Duggan (file photo/AFANA)

For football teams there are honorable losses, bad losses, and there are terrible losses. The Eagles' lack of intent and unwillingness to play team football, puts their loss to Hawthorn in the third category. Not only was it a terrible loss it was the worst loss they have ever had against an interstate team at home. For the Hawks, it was a victory based on disciplined field structure, hard running and intent around the ball. The Hawks have improved significantly under the coaching of Sam Mitchell. In the next few weeks, they play the Geelong Cats at the Cattery, the Fremantle Dockers in Launceston, and Collingwood at the MCG. If the Hawks win the first two, we will know if they are the real deal. The Eagles meet the Melbourne Demons at the MCG, the Brisbane Lions in Perth, and the St Kilda Saints at Marvel Stadium. Their supporters will be hoping for an improved effort.

West Coast Eagles: 0.3  2.6  3.6   4.9  (33)
Hawthorn Hawks:    3.2  5.5  9.9  14.10 (94)

West Coast Eagles: Duggan, McGovern, Yeo, Hunt, Reid,
Hawthorn Hawks:    Moore, Newcombe, Worpel, Meek, Sicily

West Coast Eagles: Waterman, Williams, McGovern, Jones
Hawthorn Hawks:    Moore, Macdonald, Ginnivan, Chol 2, Watson, Meek, Mackenzie, Jiath, Hardwick, Gunston



Article last changed on Sunday, June 30, 2024 - 3:59 PM EDT

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