Hawthorn overwhelm Eagles

HAWTHORN 3.4 10.6 16.7 19.9 (123)WEST COAST 4.4 7.5 8.7 12.7 (79)
Hawthorn: J Roughead 8 J Gunston 3 L Lowden 3 C Rioli I Smith L Breust L Hodge M Suckling. West Coast: A Gaff 3 J McGovern 2 X Ellis 2 C Masten J Darling M LeCras N Naitanui S Hurn 
Best: Hawthorn: Roughead, Hodge, Lewis, Smith, Rioli, Suckling, Spangher, Shiels West Coast: McGovern, Gaff, Priddis, Masten, Shuey
Injuries: Hawthorn: B Hartung (elbow). West Coast: Nil. Reports: Nil.  
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, David Harris, Nicholas Foot. 
Crowd: 15,503 at Aurora Stadium

The storyline leading in was about who Hawthorn didn't have, and what West Coast hasn't been able to do. The Hawks can cope without players - not to mention their coach - like few other sides, but there were so many good ones still missing, and they had almost been beaten by Greater Western Sydney a week earlier.

The Eagles didn't have Josh Kennedy but their forward line was still so tall. They would start taking marks, kicking goals and making other teams worry. Soon. Surely. What they didn't need was Hawthorn remembering exactly who it still had in its side.

West Coast needed to win this game, because the top eight is hard to get in from here. The Hawks don't like to lose any, and this made for an open, attacking and easy-to-watch opening quarter. Andrew Gaff, Chris Masten and others ran. Bradley Hill and Isaac Smith took plenty of catching, too. Hawthorn scored and the Eagles responded. Luke Breust scored from right beside the point post and Nic Naitanui loped onto a well-placed kick into an almost empty forward line, kept his feet, nudged his opponent away, grabbed the ball and snapped a goal.

The Eagles found their way in front four seconds before quarter-time, and kept going. First, Xavier Ellis equalled Breust's effort from tight in the pocket. Then he took a strong mark, with both goals keeping the Hawks at arm's length and another Gaff snap helping to hold them out.

There were three problems, though. The first was that no matter how much ball the Eagles' onballers won, they struggled to get their passes into the hands of their tall forwards, as they have done for much of the year. Perhaps those players weren't running to the right spots. Jeremy McGovern was impressive, and kept asking for the ball all day. But a few times, the midfielders' kicks dropped just in front of the forwards, needing to be scooped up on the bounce and denying them what could and should have been a few stress-free shots on goal.

Problem No. 2 was that Hawthorn didn't want to go away. The Hawks are a self-assured side, a team that knows the things it does works, and slowly they began to assert themselves, make it harder for the Eagles to move the ball forward, then hard to even get their hands to it. Their pressure didn't rise dramatically, or suddenly, it was like they slowly started to choke the other side until the hold was so tight you realised it was going to be impossible for the Eagles to breathe again. Let alone run, string possessions together, make the Hawks sweat and play with some initiative.

And it helped Hawthorn to have Jarryd Roughead in its side (and this may be a minor understatement). He was a player to kick to, a player who could take a mark, a player who made the players around him worry about where he was and what he was doing, and that gave everyone on his side some confidence and certainty. Four of Roughead's five first-half goals came in the second quarter, and created the gap that West Coast never looked like being able to close.

There were other good players, lots of them. Hill, Smith and Liam Shiels kept running: one of Hill's many sprints down the wing ended with a perfectly placed pass to Roughead that was kicked at full pace but with such nonchalance. Cyril Rioli didn't look like a player who had missed three weeks, and both Jon Ceglar and Luke Lowden did their bit against two more accomplished opponents in Naitanui and Dean Cox. The more assertive their teammates upfield became, the more certain Matt Spangher and Ryan Schoenmakers seemed. Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis were… well, Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis - there wherever and whenever they were needed. Lowden, after waiting five-and-a-half years to play his first game, kicked his first three goals.

But Roughead gave the Hawks, at first, someone to keep them going, to make sure the Eagles never got too far ahead. Then he was the one able to finish a job that became such a complete and comprehensive team effort. The Hawks took over the contested possession count in the third quarter, found more room to duck into, made the Eagles follow them around, and Roughead summed them up.

He kicked eight goals in a 44-point win. But he also laid six tackles to three-quarter-time, when the game was being won, as many as any other player on his team. He kicked the ball inside 50 five times.. He was generous, he helped set things up for others and and he played like the rest of the Hawthorn players, like someone who trusts whoever happens to be around him to get the job done.

This story Hawthorn overwhelm Eagles first appeared on WA Today.