By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
The Hawks leave the field following their upset win over the GWS Giants. Photo: Hawthorn FC
The nest of Eyas is getting larger
The flock of Baby Hawks are emerging right before our eyes. They’ve won two of their past three matches against quality opposition in the Sydney Swans and the GWS Giants. Their confidence is growing by the week and it’s particular noticeable across the ground, the likes of Changkuoth Jiath who has had a breakout year in 2021 averaging 20 disposals and six marks per game across half-back, while Will Day has slotted back into the line-up perfectly since returning from injury and played his best game of the season to date against the Giants. Denver Grainger-Barrass played his first game for the Hawks on Sunday after being taken with Pick 5 in the 2020 National Draft looked really promising. The forward line is also showing strong potential with small forward Dylan Moore continuing his strong year kicking four goals in the win, while Jacob Koschitzke was lively once again. Jai Newcomb has also looked really strong, stringing three consecutive games together after being picked up by the Hawks in the mid-season draft.
The Eagles sanctuary is no longer tough to break into
Once upon a time a trip to the West was feared by the rest of the competition, however suddenly that incredibly tough trip to Optus stadium doesn’t seem as tough. West Coast have lost two of their past three games at home to both Essendon and the Western Bulldogs and to make it worse in round 15 they were thrashed by a rampant Bulldogs team. The Eagles simply looked flat against the Dogs only managing 6.7 and conceding 13.20 something we rarely see from a West Coast team in Perth. If the rest of the AFL fixture plays out the way it is meant to, the Eagles only face one more top eight team at Optus Stadium. However, based on recent weeks it looks as though anyone may be able to break into the Eagles’ sanctuary.
Fremantle were too good for Collingwood in what was a confidence boosting win. Photo: Getty Images
Dockers’ win flying under the radar
I know Collingwood haven’t been great in 2021 but for Fremantle to beat them at Marvel Stadium is no mean feat and should give a young, rising side on the rise some confidence it can win more games on the road. Given their record on the road leading into the game, which included losses to Melbourne (when it wasn’t the best side in the competition like we know now), Carlton, Brisbane, Essendon, Port Adelaide, this win was a pivotal one for the Dockers. Road games against Hawthorn, Sydney and St Kilda are still to come, and some wins not only make finals a possibility, but help a young side believe in itself.
Sun struggles to shine in the Apple Isle
Gold Coast were already struggling immensely before they travelled to Tasmania to face the bottom of the ladder North Melbourne. However, a win would’ve slightly released some pressure. They were in the game throughout the match however that’s still not good enough, with the amount of talent this club has in its repertoire they should be far better than a young Kangaroos team. Going into 2021 they were expected to push for finals for the first time in their ten-year history after showing strong signs in 2020, however they’ve gone backwards. It doesn’t get any easier for the Suns as they face a hungry Richmond team on Thursday night who will be keen to bounce back after their incredibly poor round 15 performance.
The Saints caused a major upset at the MCG on Friday night defeating reigning premier Richmond by 40 points. Photo: AFL Photos
Saints’ fans pulling their hair out
If you were a St Kilda fan, you would be ropable, even after a win like that over Richmond. Playing at the MCG, on a wet night, with the Tigers fielding 18 of its 2020 premiership winning 22, the Saints shouldn’t have stood a chance, but they defended superbly and looked okay going forward. Saints’ fans would be asking ‘where the hell has this been all season?’ The match-up was made for a Richmond win, they never lose in the wet at home. It does mean St Kilda’s finals chances are alive, as long as they bring that intensity every week.
Mentality is king
If Gold Coast’s and Carlton’s season tell us anything, it’s that mindset and defensive intensity is the most important part of an AFL game style. In 2020 and even the early rounds of 2021, the Suns were kings of the contested ball, tackle pressure and surge mentality. In round six it was on full display against Sydney, Gold Coast 40 point winners. Same can be said for Carlton. They’re defense, or lack there-of, has been dissected every week without fail. When both side’s buy in, they win games. Look at Richmond, they’ve built a dynasty through this style of game. It works, and when you don’t do it, losing streaks like the one Gold Coast has been on the last three weeks occur.
Cover Photo: Hawthorn FC