New week, same problems for the Bombers and how star Swan single-handedly sank the Hawks


ANZAC Day at the MCG is always an occasion. As Mick Malthouse said over the week (a little deaf, yes), it’s victory or shame.

Essendon didn’t win, but they weren’t dishonored either. An eleven-point loss to a Collingwood side that just couldn’t miss in front of goal was the kind of result that suggests the Bombers were in this game up to their eyeballs. They were.

In the end, though, you couldn’t really argue that the better team didn’t win. When the thrust came, the Magpies were calmer, sharper and, yes, more accurate; it made all the difference in the world.

Having been pilloried all week, he was a tougher and fiercer bomber than at any point in their loss to Fremantle. It was clear that winning the ball up close had been a priority, and the results were spectacular.

Midway through the third term, despite running a narrow deficit, the Bombers had a 21-12 lead in clearances, having been beaten 30-42 by the Dockers. They would go on to win the stat generously, 43-31, while taking a narrow disputed possession advantage, 123-114.

At the center of it was Darcy Parish, one of the biggest scapegoats for this Docker defeat. With his work rate in question, he busted his stomach the first siren until he was slowed by an ankle injury midway through last term.

He had 30 possessions at halftime – the most by a player in the 2000s – until action was finally taken to limit his close influence, with Taylor Adams and Patrick Lipinski paying attention until the end .

Yet with 44 assignments, 15 disputed possessions and 12 clearances, critics were quick to point out its lack of penetration. Yes, it didn’t go into any charging strokes from a stop; but he was key in winning the ball for the Bombers and starting the goal chains.

With Zach Merrett making suggestions, his shock pick was a move born out of desperation in bed with 36 touches and his trademark run and carry. Likewise, Jake Stringer was influential, his hamstrings no problem with three goals and the occasional flash of trademark brilliance.

Sam Draper more than matched Brodie Grundy from close range, although the Pies ruckman held off a knee with aplomb to take the points thanks to his exceptional work on the field. But in the first half, eight Grundy hits were caught by the Bombers – a story often told during Nathan Buckley’s tenure as coach.

Despite all of the Bombers’ improvements to the face, turnovers and their defense remain major issues at Windy Hill. That they were dominating in the middle, but couldn’t convert that into a territory advantage to speak of, indicating that their game chains have broken down. Too often a long ball to the offensive 50 has been cut by Jeremy Howe, an all-day defending titan with 13 points, or blocked by a wayward kick.

Still, 17 marks inside 50 was a terrific result: when it worked, they had plenty of options. When that wasn’t the case, however, they weren’t able to lock the ball in their offensive 50 and force repeated saves. The return of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will do them wonders.

The Magpies, on the other hand, scored 56 points from turnovers – and 44 of them came from strings that started in their defensive half. When the Dons handed it over, more often than not the Magpies made them pay.

As good as that second-term Jack Crisp goal was, it summed up the problem currently plaguing the Bombers — no one even seemed to want to stop him as he waltzed down the middle, realized no one was coming his way, strolled up ‘at 50 and ended clinically.

If he wins Goal of the Year for it, Ben Rutten should claim some of the credit.

The Magpies, meanwhile, showed the value of accurate kicks for goal. After costing themselves with a poor conversion in recent defeats to Geelong and the West Coast, the ledger has rallied strongly this week: 15.3 from a side that had previously been more miss than hit in front of the big sticks , it’s extraordinary.

Jack Ginnivan bombarded them from the outside of 50, part of a five-goal ANZAC medal-winning run. Forward Darcy Cameron threaded the needle from a tight angle

So what to do then? The Bombers were better than against the Dockers, but it was the same problem in the end that cost them the game. On rebound, they remain too loose; while their kicks are so far short of 79.8% efficiency, the stat sheet says it’s no fun. They like to use the ball safely in defence, working their way up the pitch – but the minute it comes time to bite down a hard kick or drive the ball long, things break down with regularity.

As for the Pies, either they kicked like they should have against the Cats and Eagles, or they got lucky with a weird day in front of goal. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle.

Magpies’ Jack Ginnivan celebrates a goal. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Earlier today it was a story of two halves in Tasmania – or, more accurately, it was a story of three quarters and a half of Sydney dominating, and fifteen minutes of Hawthorn that turned out almost winner anyway.

Much like they did last week against Geelong, the Hawks leaped blocks with a devastating flurry to leave a comfortable favorite reeling. They won five of the first six clearances, thus generating the first five in the 50s.

And it wasn’t just death by weight of numbers: the Hawks were surgically precise in advancing the ball. Last week’s Rising Star nomination Jai Newcombe was nothing short of fantastic, a string of assists finding Jack Gunston, Chad Wingard and co. as the Hawks racked up the goals.

5.2 to 0.0 in the 16th minute, Sam Mitchell’s men seemed to have killed the game. Then it was like the Swans realizing, ‘Wait a second. We are better than that. Because the rest of the game couldn’t have been different.

It started at the source – the Swans were tied in clearances halfway through the second quarter and would finish comfortably ahead (41-28), while dominating the inside 50 (68-42). Surrenders, fumbles down the middle, possessions contested, hits… you name it, the Swans crushed the Hawks, despite barely touching their foot in the first half of the first term.

The key architect of it all was Callum Mills: if there’s been a better individual game so far this season, I haven’t seen it. Incredible up close – some of his handballs being extracted to teammates reminded Swans teammate Josh Kennedy in his pomp – but working hard enough on the pitch with eleven marks and always providing an option there was nothing he did not do.

He would finish with 37 takedowns – including 23 kicks – 17 possessions contested, six clearances, gained 660 yards and scored the Swans’ first goal to set them on fire. It was a one-man rampage.

Oh, and he also curbed Tom Mitchell’s influence during stops after a hot start. He literally did it all.

The fact that the Swans took until the final fifteen minutes to tear the game apart, scoring the game’s final eight goals to run away after only hitting the forward in the 16th minute, came down to two things: Swans’ shoddy footing for goal and the Hawks’ team’s immaculate defense.

Denying the Swans their trademark run and weapon, an accurate passing game through midfield, long bombs were dealt by the Hawks as they have all year. James Sicily remained a formidable foe to outrun in the 50 defense, while careful ball use from Jack Scrimshaw and Will Day prevented the kind of backline turnovers that have plagued so many teams this week.

Of course, when Lance Franklin is one of those days in front of goal, scoring 3.4 and lucky to get there, you can afford the occasional lapse of time. Especially with Isaac Heeney, so lethal all year, handled brilliantly by Blake Hardwick until the Hawks defense cracked under the weight of numbers in the last term.

At the other end, the devastating loss of Paddy McCartin to another blow to the head – thankfully the club are optimistic he can return soon – was hardly felt: the Swans weren’t all just not obligated to defend much in the last term, such was the case. their dominance in midfield.

Once the game was over, the Swans inflated their stats: Chad Warner was all over the place last term with nine touches and a goal, while Justin McInerney, Will Hayward, Ollie Florent and Ben Ronke capitalized on new space by attacking 50 as Hawks. ‘The defensive structure has completely collapsed. Changkuoth Jiath’s run out of defense was sorely missed: without him, Hawthorn struggled all day to get out of the defensive 50 with any dash, allowing the Swans to slowly slip back into the game.

He said that despite all their organization, the Hawks remain an ordinary team exceptionally well coached by Mitchell: another year learning his game plan and putting miles in the legs of Day, Finn Maginness and a host of other emerging talents. , then this team could explode on the ladder.

The journey awaits them: the Swans, meanwhile, are already approaching their destination.




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