• Swans v Hawks Round 9 Match Report: Reality Bites

    Reality Bites

    It?s never easy revving up the motivation levels required to pen a match report after a loss, especially one as emphatic as Sunday?s loss. I also empathise with prospective readers the difficulty experienced in having to re-live the horrors of a thrashing - my natural preference being to look forward to the upcoming match and chalking up the abject performance to just a bad day.

    However to do so would be incredibly short-sighted as in truth, this kind of result has been a few weeks in the making. Having dispatched the Bulldogs and Port with erratic but sufficiently adequate performances, the inability to play at a high enough level consistently over 4 quarters was finally punished by a top quality side in the Hawks.

    The Game
    Coming into the match, a few previews highlighted the contrasts between the playing styles of the two teams - the Swans relying heavily on a highly contested game plan while the Hawks had preferred a more uncontested brand of football, happy to keep possession of the football until a uncontested option opens up. The general consensus being the team who could compel their opponents into playing their favoured style would go on to win the game.

    The Swans were the team that managed this feat in the 1st quarter, dominating the quarter by exerting excellent forward pressure on the Hawks? half-backs and preventing them from accumulating cheap touches around their defensive zone. However 3 mistakes in our own defensive half proved costly. A Grundy kick half-smothered and 2 woefully inaccurate Shaw kicks directly or indirectly led to Hawthorn?s goals for the quarter which kept them in touch. The coaching staff would have been relieved when McGlynn kicked his first to deservedly send the Swans ahead on the quarter time siren.

    The Swans have struggled in their 2nd quarters this year, and this one was no different. The Hawks were more efficient with the ball - their deft kicks and quick handballs to hardworking, pacy options who spread quickly left the Swans players looking languorous. Our ball use was poor, with numerous errant handballs and misdirected kicks complemented with players losing their feet and constant fumbling. Thankfully Hawthorn failed to capitalise with some inaccurate conversion, mostly by Buddy, leaving them only with a 4 point lead at the main break.

    The Hawks were not so generous in the 2nd half breaking open the game with 4 consecutive goals. Disappointingly and painfully for the crowd, 3 of the 4 goals were kicked right on the goalline. In addition to their troubles with their disposal in the first half, the Swans faced another obstacle as the Hawks? ascendancy in the clearances begin to hurt.

    In an attempt to stretch the undersized Hawks defence, Longmire had decided to start the 2nd half with Mumford at full-forward leaving LRT to undertake the centre bounce duties. But in a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, the Hawks? ruckmen stamped their dominance with telling taps and clearances from the ruck contests, while poor Mummy was left chasing after loose balls and Hawks defenders due to the haphazard delivery into our forward line.

    The Swans? impressive defensive pressure from the 1st quarter was no where to be seen as the Hawks players streamed out of their defensive half with almost a degree of insouciance about the Swans - happy to take on their tacklers with the knowledge that they had plenty of support nearby to release a quick handball or kick. Another quick spurt of 3 goals at the end of 3rd quarter left the Swans chasing a mammoth 36 point margin which was a fair reflection of the state of the game. Longmire had shuffled some deckchairs in the mean time - Smith moved to the effervescent Rioli allowing Shaw to try his hand up in the forward line where he nabbed a goal. Kennedy had a go up forward but hardly saw any of it while Everitt proved as ineffective on the wing as he was up forward - but the view from the bridge continued to look despairingly ugly.

    Any hopes of an unlikely fightback were snuffed out within the first minute of the last quarter. Franklin slamming home a 50m goal accompanied by its trademark unorthodox right-to-left swing. The Swans continued to battle against the Hawk tidal wave but could not contain a Buddy full of confidence and a beneficiary of some terrific delivery by his midfielders. Poor Reg was finally taken off him after his 5th goal. McGlynn managed to add two more goals in this quarter, but they were rather more serendipitous than as a result of good attacking Swans play.

    The Omen
    It wasn?t a good sign when the Swans players moved into position before the opening bounce, when only three Sydney players in Mumford, Goodes and Kennedy were stationed in the centre square. Alastair Clarkson had pulled a unexpected move by starting Rioli in the center and leaving Sam Mitchell out of the middle. In turn his tagger Bird, who had expected to be there, was obliged to follow his target into the defensive fifty. Only after some frantic looks of consternation exchanged between our two captains did McVeigh finally move himself from the half-forward line to stand beside Cyril just before the umpire bounced it.

    We probably shouldn?t read too much into this situation but on review, it reflected the reactive mindset that had the team on the back foot and saw the midfield setup struggle in the center bounces later in the game.

    The Turning Point
    The Hawks had blown away the Swans with 4 consecutive goals early in the 3rd quarter but the Swans, as is their wont, managed to peg back to margin to just 3 goals with consecutive goals from the unlikely sources of Malceski and Shaw. With just 2 minutes left on the game clock, a kick into an open Hawthorn forward line, resulted in an intriguing one-on-one battle between Goodes and Rioli. Goodes did well to keep his wits and tap the loose ball to McVeigh, who had come over to support his fellow skipper. Rioli who possesses an amazing ability to get back onto his feet in a hurry, quickly swamped McVeigh with his enveloping arms. McVeigh?s half-desperate, half-frustrated appeals that he had managed to get boot on ball fell on the umpire?s deaf ears. Rioli won the holding-the-ball free and duly converted.

    The Hawks subsequently won the next 2 clearances and kicked 2 more goals through Franklin and Shiels in quick succession. What had been a manageable 3 goal margin had suddenly blown out to an almost impossible 6 goal lead and with it any chance of a Swans fightback in the last quarter.

    The Washup
    We probably learnt a lot more about Hawthorn than the Swans - they are genuine Top 4 contenders, even with key personnel missing in the ruck and defence they possess enough firepower up forward and in the midfield to win games. What the Swans displayed for most of the game we had witnessed in patches in the previous 2 rounds - poor kicking, a lack of a structured forward line and an inability to play 4 quarters - but had managed to win due to the greater ineptness of our opposition.

    The stats showed that we matched Hawthorn in Inside 50s (49 - 51) and Clearances (36 - 36) but what the numbers failed to show are the quality of those disposals. Hawthorn were clean, quick and direct whereas we were incredibly sloppy, slow and aimless going forward. We are desperately missing the zippiness and line-breaking ability of Kieren Jack - Goodes is our only other midfielder in this category but we need him forward too! - meaning plenty of our clearances are quick or sloppy kicks by slower players such as Kennedy, O?Keefe, Bird and Jude.

    The sight of the Hawthorn players winning clearances ad nauseam and kicking goals in the 2nd half was a sobering experience for even the most bright-eyed supporter and a reality check that the current side, as it stands, are some way off from challenging for a Top 4 position. We still have a side good enough to be in the mix for a Finals spot, but expect further up and downs throughout the season as Longmire and his fellow coaches experiment with the game plan and discover which personnel are best suited to take this side forward.

    Sydney 4.1 4.4 6.8 8.12 (60)
    Hawthorn 3.2 4.8 11.14 15.16 (106)

    Sydney: McGlynn 3, Everitt, McVeigh, Jetta, Malceski, Shaw
    Hawthorn: Franklin 6, Hodge 2, Burgoyne, Roughead, Bateman, Osborne, Rioli, Shiels, Breust

    Sydney: Hannebery, Malceski, Goodes, Kennelly
    Hawthorn: Franklin, Birchall, Roughead, Hodge, Shiels, Lewis, Sewell, Burgoyne, Gibson
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. dimelb's Avatar
      dimelb -
      Well, ugg, a sobering but honest report. The supporters' equivalent of a long, hard look at our team. I'm sure they've done the same.
    1. Frog's Avatar
      Frog -
      +1 and thanks for the report. I still haven't seen the match here up North. Probably won't either, motivation for watching a match and writing a report must be close to on-par.
    1. liz's Avatar
      liz -
      That's an amazingly coherent report, Ugg, for such a painful experience. I had tried to muddle most of the ugly details away, but you have brought them vividly back to front of mind.
    1. ShockOfHair's Avatar
      ShockOfHair -
      Thanks for putting this together Ugg. I've been avoiding the game all week.

      'Languorous' and 'insouciance' are good words to describe our performance.
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