Date: May 12 2012
HAWTHORN 2.6 8.12 10.18 15.25 (115) MELBOURNE 3.3 3.5 5.11 6.13 (49)
GOALS Hawthorn: Franklin 3, Young 2, Puopolo 2, Rioli, Hale, Smith, Lewis, Roughead, Breust, Suckling, Savage. Melbourne: Clark 3, Howe, Magner, McKenzie.
BEST Hawthorn: Lewis, Burgoyne, Shiels, Birchall, Savage, Sewell, Whitecross, Suckling. Melbourne: Magner, Clark, Howe, Frawley, Jones, Moloney
INJURIES Hawthorn: Osborne (knee). Melbourne: Garland (leg).
UMPIRES Findlay, Rosebury, Bannister.
CROWD 36,430 at MCG.
WHEN a struggling team is still searching for its first win seven weeks into a season, the smallest moments seem to take on super significance. In the first minute of Melbourne's match against Hawthorn last night, Cyril Rioli fumbled a handball while standing right on the goal line. Perhaps this was a sign? Not long after, the ball slipped through Jordan Lewis' cold hands when he was not much further out. Maybe, just maybe, this was another one?
Then there were the things the Demons were making happen. For so long, their one step forward has been followed by two, three or more in the opposite direction. But James Magner was taking tough marks across half-forward. Melbourne's forwards trapped two or three players in a corner of the ground and won themselves a free kick. Colin Garland was keeping Rioli reasonably quiet and James Frawley wasn't letting Lance Franklin have too much say. Jack Fitzpatrick smothered a forward-bound ball. Brent Moloney and Nathan Jones broke tackles. Mitch Clark took three big marks, kicked three big goals and at quarter-time, Melbourne led.
Did it last? Not exactly. Not for long, either, and the way in which Hawthorn took charge said plenty about both sides. Half an hour later, the Hawks had kicked six goals in a row (seven, if you count the one Paul Puopolo snuck at the end of the first term). But they didn't really require a turning point, or need to do anything dramatic. Simply, they got the ball; at half-time, they had 233 possessions to the Demons' 118. Then, they ran with it: handball receives at half-time were 85 to 27. They had more contested possessions and more uncontested possessions. In every area they just slipped in front, then pushed, pushed and pushed. It looked at times like they had more players on the ground, It was an adjustment, or a reset. It was no big deal. They just took over. Easy.
From there, things started happening. Franklin snapped two goals over his shoulder. The ball didn't really get to Clark, but it did reach players such as Shane Savage and Brendan Whitecross more often, with the Hawks able to bring more and more players into the game, and the Demons were unable to resist. Rioli ran down Garland, who had played on from a kick-in, and slotted an easy goal. Jeremy Howe was caught high while flying for a mark 20 metres from goal, but missed. Jack Trengove's shot, from only a few more metres out, fell short. Cale Morton grabbed Savage and gave away a 50-metre penalty. Savage had just marked a too-short pass, but it had been paid. Now, many of Melbourne's moments were diabolical ones.
Players running from the back line looked up and couldn't see anyone to kick to, where Brad Sewell, Liam Shiels and Lewis kept setting their teammates into space. The Demons' confidence, their energy - their plan - evaporated, just like that, and Hawthorn became even more domineering.
Suddenly Melbourne needed to do huge things to get back into a game it felt like it had just been winning. At half-time, Garland was the Demons' highest possession winner and 10 Hawks had matched his 11 touches or gone much better.
At the start of the last quarter, Sam Mitchell's tally of 15 possessions had him listed well down the Hawthorn stat sheet. He had still had more than anyone in the Demons' midfield and he led his team's tackle count regardless. Shaun Burgoyne's 16 touches were mid-range too. But most of them caused damage. The persistence of Savage, Whitecross, Young and others meant Rioli got away with a quiet one. Franklin was able to kick his three goals without necessarily beating Frawley.
Hawthorn's methodical run stretched to eight goals, then nine, then 10 before the run was broken midway through the third term. And it was broken only briefly. This one was as emphatic as they come. The final tallies: 424 possessions to 259; 158 handball receives to 60; 276 uncontested touches to 149; 64 inside-50s to 36. The Hawks have had a bumpy start, and at times let games be wrenched away. Last night, the foot was absolutely put down.
The rule change came through midweek, warning players about skidding in with the knees, and you could almost hear the cogs ticking over in Jordie McKenzie's brain as he ran out to meet a loose ball in the first quarter and found Sam Mitchell due to get there at the same time from the other direction. McKenzie went to ground and slid in on his side, not quite sure where to put himself.
LIES AND STATISTICS
It's hard to win when you can't get the ball, and keep it. At half-time, Melbourne had half the possessions of Hawthorn and this was after leading at quarter-time. The Hawks had 233 touches to the Demons' 118 at the main break. Astonishingly, they had just 35 handballs to Hawthorn's 110.
AND THEN THE MUSIC STOPS
It was a cold, lacklustre evening. Lance Franklin was not kicking straight, yet the result seemed a foregone conclusion, but substituting Cyril Rioli out of the game in the last quarter really ended the will to watch. - MICHAEL GLEESON
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