Plucky Giants overpowered

HAWTHORN 6.1 12.7 15.10 21.14 (140) GWS 2.1 5.2 8.2 9.3 (57) GOALS: Hawthorn – Roughead 5, Gunston 3, Franklin 2, Burgoyne 2, Sewell, Hale, Smith, Lewis, Hodge, Shiels, Bailey, Puopolo, Mitchell. GWS – Cameron 4, Miles, Palmer, Adams, Bugg, Scully. BEST: Hawthorn – Mitchell, Gunston, Lewis, Simpkin, Roughead, Burgoyne, Hale. GWS – Coniglio, Palmer, Cameron, Adams, Scully, Ward. INJURIES: Hawthorn – Hill (thigh, replaced by Guerra). UMPIRES: Ryan, Kamolins, Harris. CROWD: 10,513, at Aurora Stadium.
Nanjing Night Net

It was never going to take much for GWS to perform above expectations against Hawthorn, given how meagre those expectations were. While the margin of its loss on Saturday in Launceston – 83 points – was close to what was expected its competitiveness, at least until the last quarter, was admirable.

None of the form lines favoured the Giants. On the only other occasion they played the Hawks they lost by a club-record 162, they were coming off a 135-point pummeling at home to mid-ranked Adelaide, and the last time they played in Tasmania – against North Melbourne – they were blown away 12 goals to none in the first half.

The early signs were not good for GWS as the premiership-challenging Hawthorn kicked five unanswered goals in the first 15 minutes while it struggled to even break beyond its half-forward line. The Giants held their own in close but wily Hawks midfielders Sam Mitchell and Shaun Burgoyne intelligently used rapid-fire handballs to find teammates in space who could stream forward – although coach Alastair Clarkson later declared his midfielders had become too handball-happy.

“We had more handballs than kicks in the first half (111 to 108). That’s not usually our go . . . we perhaps didn’t go into our forward line deep enough on occasions because of that,” he said.

Rhys Palmer’s defensive-forward role on Grant Birchall was particularly effective, although Clarkson later revealed those type of scenarios do not bother him because of the resulting lack of attention for other key players.

“It’s not all that great for ‘Birch’ [Birchall] from time to time, because he’d like to be getting 30 touches every week, but it’s very, very difficuly for opposition forward lines to structure up in the way that they’d like when they’re running one tag. If they tag him then they’re letting (Sam) Mitchell off the leash . . . that helps us out a fair bit,” he said.

Mitchell eventually received the greater attention his form demanded, from Anthony Miles, but was never able to be shackled completely. Even when he was hindered somewhat – he was on track for 40 possessions at half-time but finish just below that mark with 35 – Jordan Lewis’ emergence thereafter meant it had negligible effect on the result.

Hawthorn will have matches throughout the season when its three key-forwards Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Jack Gunston will kick more than the 10 goals they kicked between them against the Giants. Nevertheless what will worry opposition teams was how cohesively the Hawks any of the three, in rotation, up the ground either into midfield or on a wing, disrupting defensive match-ups. This was reflected in them snaring, in addition to the 10 goals, 59 possessions between them.

“That’s what we’ve tried to work on through the course of the summer, that we wouldn’t be so one-dimensional in our front half and share it amongst a group of players. That’s working OK for us at the present time,” Clarkson said.

“To get 13 goalkickers was a really good spread once again.”

Stephen Coniglio was the most consistently effective of GWS’ midfielders and received solid support from Taylor Adams, Tom Scully and Callan Ward. As a group, however, they were nowhere near as devastating as the likes of Mitchell, Lewis and, unexpectedly, Jonathan Simpkin were for the Hawks.

The Giants’ most encouraging stint came in the third quarter, to the extent they would have won the quarter – an inconsequential but nevertheless encouraging achievement – had it not been for Hawk David Hale’s goal in the last 90 seconds.

Jeremy Cameron was typically efficient up forward, kicking four goals from limited opportunities.

Excepting the start and end of the match the Giants showed their competitivenes by not allowing the Hawks to kick more than three goals in succession. The margin of victory owed much to the first five goals in the first quarter and the final six goals in the last. The latter was due to the GWS players conspicuously tiring and no longer being able to fill holes deep in its defensive zone. Such flaws are typically punished by any team, and almost invariably one as clinical and skilful as Hawthorn.

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