For two and a half quarters, the Hawks had passed the test against a frighteningly good Sydney team and a new four quarter challenge awaits with a Melbourne team who’s won 13 straight and look unstoppable.
However, with COVID striking the Dees, and a young side capable of surprising the competition, it’s still game on.
Last Time We Played
Round 18, 2021
Hawthorn – 12.7.79
Melbourne – 11.13.79
Goals – Breust (3.1), Lewis (2.0)
Disposals – Mitchell 39, Worpel 29, O’Meara 25, Phillips 25, Shiels 24
The Hawks got off to a horrid start in the drawn game, being down by 20 points at quarter but a five goal third term got the game in the Hawks favour before Dylan Moore set up Luke Breust for the game tying goal.
Squad updated 3pm Friday the 29th of April
In – Jackson Callow (debut), Liam Shiels, Lachie Bramble
Out – Denver Grainger-Barras (managed), Josh Ward (managed), Harry Morrison (injured)
The Hawks are resting DGB and Pick 7 in the 2021 Draft Josh Ward off a five day turn around between games. That is understandable with the boys having some noticeable niggles during the week and Harry Morrison as recently as 3pm on Friday a withdrawl from the squad meaning Finn Maginness retains his spot.
Liam Shiels in the week of his 31st birthday is back, and his role presents a really interesting debate; tag in the midfield, play as a midfielder or accompany Ed Langdon on a wing, where he played for most of Round 1 against North Melbourne.
Every Hawk fan walks a little taller with Lachie Bramble back in the lineup and he could also go with Langdon, but his penetrating run, devilish dash and quality foot skills will excite us all.
Jackson “Buckets” Callow will make his debut and the Tassie Devil himself looks like he’ll play deep forward and is in contention for the second ruck role with Jacob Koschitzke and Conor Nash.
We wish him all the very best and although Mitch Lewis is a walk up start in this side, the second tall is still up for grabs so if he wants it, he can have it, if he has a great start to his career.
How the Hawks win
Considering Melbourne are the best defence and sixth best offence in the league, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Hawks should just have a ‘hit and hope’ mentality, however there are strategies they can use to get the upper hand.
Like when the Hawks had the likes of Josh Gibson dominating in the mid 2010’s, Steven May is an elite interceptor who can leave his man and impact every contest.
The Hawks need to make him accountable and Jack Gunston is the man to do that, letting Koschitzke and Callow play their natural game.
The delivery inside 50 is going to be key of course to give the forwards a chance. Playing one on one, especially when the ball is in the Hawks back half, can give us a chance to hurt the Dees on turnover.
Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval showed the competition exactly how not to play Melbourne: shut down half the ground and suffocate.
It didn’t work at all and the Hawks need speed on the ball, unpredictable entries inside 50 and to not let the Dees have an open forward half to carve us up.
To keep themselves in the game, the Hawks need another fast start like the last fortnight, being +37 in point differential.
It’s “broken record” time, but at the end of the day, it’s all on the midfield and specifically, Tom Mitchell and Jai Newcombe.
The Hawks No.3 midfield spot is still up in the air, with James Worpel, Josh Ward, Connor MacDonald and others not grabbing the spot and making it theirs, albeit Ward and MacDonald have got reasons; inexperience.
The sweeper at the back (Melbourne’s front) of the stoppage is also key as Oliver, Petracca, Viney and Harmes can bully their way through the stoppage and the more roadblocks, the better.
It’s Melbourne. That’s concern enough, given just how good they are.
They execute the basics (and the complex) better than any team in the competition and have done so over the last eight months.
Max Gawn, Steven May, Ed Langdon, Bayley Fritsch and Clayton Oliver are walk ups in the All Australian team right now, which is a testament to how great this team is.
As mentioned earlier, they’re the best defence in the competition and haven’t given up over 71 points in a game this year.
The Demons don’t really use the ball magnificently well (ranked 10th for disposal efficiency) but they take their opponents on with pace and have got plenty of forwards who can punish you.
Even with Sparrow and Pickett out, Ben Brown, Tom McDonald, Bayley Fritsch, Charlie Spargo, Christian Petracca, Alex Neal-Bullen and Sam Weideman can kick scores to put the game out of reach for the Hawks.
They are the supreme team and justifiably are ahead of the eight ball but they’ve had a good run with the fixture, 9th placed Hawthorn coming into the round is the highest ranked team Melbourne have faced.
The former Pie has had COVID, concussions and a bee sting in 2022 but this is only the second time he’s played consecutive games in his career.
It’s a difficult task with Max Gawn ahead but in the only other time they’ve played, Lynch had career highs in disposals (15), hitouts (equal, 23), clearances, uncontested possessions, time on ground and one-percenters.
Gawn is a legitimate top 10 player, captain and the best ruckman in the league so what a challenge it will be.