Its official. The monkey is now a gorilla.
A gorilla in hawk clothing.
For the third consecutive time, the Eagles were embarrassed and outplayed in a game at the MCG by Hawthorn.
Entering the Round 5 clash as warm favourites, West Coast never looked like challenging for victory, as the previously winless Hawks cruised to a 50 point win.
The Hawks have showed little in the first month of football, but throughout the afternoon they were the more committed, more desperate, more ambitious of the two sides.
Tom Mitchell was the standout dominating around the stoppages. Mitchell spent plenty of time opposed to Matt Priddis, and while Priddis was able to register 3 clearances and 11 tackles, Mitchell had the greater influence on the game.
Mitchell’s attack at the ball in contests set the example for his teammates who showed greater hunger than the visitors from start to finish.
Conversely too many Eagles failed to match the intensity of Hawthorn and there must now be serious questions over how much of the current squad are affected by the demons of the past.
The Hawks have been a shadow of the team that claimed three consecutive premierships but many of the Eagles still appeared overawed by the opposition and the venue. The Eagles were sloppy and often indiscriminate with their disposal, particularly going inside 50.
The Eagles were unable to adapt to the pressure applied by the Hawks and often made poor decisions as a result. Alastair Clarkson’s cluster was very much in vogue and the Eagles struggled to penetrate through it for much of the day. The Eagles were smashed in contested possession by a Hawthorn side that had lost this stat by over 20 in the first four weeks of football. Hawthorn finished on the right side of this count by 22, highlighting the lacking appetite of the Eagles.
Chris Masten, Sharrod Wellingham, Elliot Yeo, Mark LeCras, Josh Hill, Will Schofield and Dom Sheed all failed to dispel the demons from recent games against the Hawks, while Jack Darling finished with four goals but three were gifts in the goal square and a simple missed chance in the third quarter robbed the Eagles of momentum during a rare period of control in the game.
Luke Shuey fought out the game to have 33 possessions, to be a rare winner on the ground for West Coast. Shuey registered over 30 disposals for the fifth game from as many starts, in a performance that also included seven clearances, six tackles and two goals. Jackson Nelson provided plenty of run from the back half but the Eagles were static for much of the day as the game was played on Hawthorn’s terms.
West Coast made a late change before the game started bringing in Dom Sheed for Jon Giles in an attempt to address a top-heavy line-up. However, it was Hawthorn who had all the running as they dominated the early stages. The Eagles had enjoyed a ten day break following their win over Sydney last Thursday night and were lethargic as the Hawks got the opening two goals.
The Eagles were able to level things through the first quarter, and it was the same problems for Hawthorn when West Coast booted their first three goals by getting over the back of the Hawk defence. The Hawks though continued to get the better of the contest, and six goals in second term proved decisive in the match.
Hawthorn had opened up a 27 point break at the major change, and the Eagles couldn't get the momentum swing in the match to draw closer through the second half.
Many of the senior Hawks who had been questioned during the week, were the ones to stand up and drive Hawthorn to their first win of the season. Shaun Burgoyne, Isaac Smith, Luke Bruest, Jack Gunstan, Liam Shiels and Will Langford had all had faced criticism but bounced back to be influential in the Hawks win.
In scenes reminiscent of the 2015 Grand Final, the parochial Hawthorn crowd were chanting ‘Cyril’ through much of the final quarter, with the small forward producing his best form of the year. There had been suggestions that Rioli was considering giving the game away to return to his home town, but any thoughts in his mind looked miles away as Rioli once again terrorised the Eagle defence.
Rioli had a hand in a number of goals through a series of pressure acts and deft touches and even submitted his claim for mark of the year with a flying pack mark late in the game.
Liam Shiels collected 26 disposals for the winners, Isaac Smith finished with 25 despite being hampered with a leg injury and Luke Bruest had three first half goals. Their work at ground level was well assisted by ruckman Ben McEvoy who was by far the dominant big man on the ground.
McEvoy relished his size advantage in the ruck and around the ground, with the Eagles making the late decision to leave out Jon Giles. Dom Sheed was brought into the side for ‘team balance’ leaving Nathan Vardy to do the majority of the ruckwork, with Jack Darling and Jeremy McGovern providing cover.
McEvoy finished with 43 hit-outs and the Hawthorn midfield took the points over their Eagle counterparts who had too many passengers.
For Adam Simpson, the result was less about where the game was played but more the inability of his side to respond to the Hawk’s application. “The Hawks were relentless all day – and we couldn’t sustain it. Even when our intent looked right, we looked fumbly.”
“I’m not worried about the ground, I’m worried about our resolve, our resilience, our intent, sustaining it when we have it, capitalising. We have bigger problems than playing at the MCG.”
West Coast will have six days to bounce back from the poor performance with a derby clash against a resurgent Fremantle.
Match Details Sunday 23 April 2017
Hawthorn 3.4 9.8 12.9 19.11 (125)
West Coast 2.2 5.5 7.8 11.9 (75)
Melbourne Cricket Ground Attendance: 28,997
Goals: HAW O’Brien, Bruest, Gunston, Roughead 3, Sicily 2, Puopolo, Rioli, Shiels, Burgoyne, McEvoy
WCE Darling 4, Hill, Shuey 2, Kennedy, Cripps, Redden.
EAGLE EYE VOTES
Round 5 Season Total
5 Luke Shuey 20 Luke Shuey
4 Jackson Nelson 12 Elliot Yeo
3 Matthew Priddis 11 Andrew Gaff
2 Tom Barrass 6 Matthew Priddis
1 Jamie Cripps 5 Sam Mitchell
ROUND 6 FORECAST
The Eagles return home to take on Fremantle who have been revitalised in recent weeks with the addition of many youngsters into their team. The Dockers have won their past three games and have the same 3-2 record after five games as West Coast. There will be at least two changes with Jamie Cripps and Jackson Nelson joining an injury list that is starting to really grow.
Cripps landed awkwardly in the closing moments of the game and suffered a high ankle strain that is likely to rule him out for at least two months. Jackson Nelson fractured a wrist during the game but played out the match. Scans have now sidelined Nelson for a month. Andrew Gaff and Brad Sheppard both received knocks during the game, but are set to play against the Dockers.
While there are two players confirmed as outs, Adam Simpson promised in his post-match conference that there would be more changes, and it could be a number of players. Dom Sheed was a late inclusion but struggled in the high intensity, and might need more game time at the WAFL. Liam Duggan collected a number of possessions but made a number of errors while Jack Redden failed to have an impact in the middle, making it consecutive weeks. Josh Hill is another who could come under fire after just eight disposals and two goals in his 100th club game, but the injury to Jamie Cripps could grant him another chance.
Jon Giles is set to come into the line up against Fremantle, with the Eagles unlikely to take just one ruckman for Sandilands. Sam Mitchell is another who could return, although his recovery from an ankle injury is not coming on as fast as was hoped, and he could still be touch and go for his first Derby.
Malcolm Karpany looms as the best like-for-like replacement of Cripps after heading over with the squad as a travelling emergency. Another who could fill the Cripps role is Kurt Mutimer who has been emergency twice so far this season and gathered 29 disposals and a goal through the midfield and half forward for East Perth. Luke Partington led the way with 31 disposals for the Royals in their first win of the season over Perth, but has been sidelined with a hand injury for the next fortnight, delaying a potential AFL debut.
Mark Hutchings was another who was strong at East Perth with 28 disposals and two goals and may be preferred to Jack Redden and Dom Sheed. Lewis Jetta still has some work to do and will probably spend more time in the WAFL before earning a recall. Tom Cole could be an outside inclusion to slot into the back half replacing Nelson but recent draftee Josh Rotham could also be an option after a steady start to the season at the Royals.