West Coast come into their round 5 clash with Hawthorn in good touch after overcoming a 5-day break and a desperate Swan’s outfit to sit 3 and 1 after 4 rounds. The same however, cannot be said for the Hawks who have dramatically fallen off the cliff after consecutive 86 point beltings. Sitting 18th on the ladder with 4 losses in a row to start their 2017 campaign, they’re not a “happy team at Hawthorn”.
Keys to the game:
· West Coast need to overcome their horrendous record at the MCG where they have lost 4 of their last 5. It’s clearly a mental thing now as the Eagles have shown they can match it with anyone in the competition, they need to continue to be brave when using the ball as they were against the Swans and keep looking to hit up targets in the corridor to open the game up.
· Hawthorn need more out of their second-tier players. Luke Hodge was an absolute warrior against Geelong but he can’t be asked to be best on ground week in week out as this will likely be his last year. Established stars like Jack Gunston, Luke Breust, Josh Gibson, Cyril Rioli, and Paul Puopolo need to find a way to get back to somewhere near their best footy, and fast.
· Sam Mitchell v the old club. Providing Mitchell gets up for the match after copping a boot to the ankle from teammate Jack Redden, Hawks fans will want to look away if he plays anywhere near 100%. Mitchell is exactly the type of player the Hawks are missing right now. He consistently manages to find time and space to pin point passes to teammates by hand or foot whereas the Hawks couldn’t hit the side of a barn in the first quarter against Geelong on Easter Monday
· Josh Kennedy v James Frawley. The former Melbourne defender was brought into the Hawks nest on big money for this exact reason; to blanket oppositions big key forwards. This battle will go a long way to determining the outcome of this match. West coast win around 30-40% of their matches when Kenned kicks 2 goals or less. Frawley will need help from the midfielders and fellow defenders to come third man over the top or at least run back to fill in the hole so Kennedy has nowhere to lead.
· “Weagles Web” v Hawthorns kicking game. The “Weagles Web” hasn’t been in full swing compared to their 2015 season when it took them all the way to the grand final, but it has been constantly tweaked. Rather than guard an opponent, West Coast guard space when the opposition are kicking out from defence. This helps create a web like structure which surrounds the opposition which usually makes it extremely difficult for them to find a free man with a kick. This results in the Eagles either taking an intercept mark, or halving the contest and getting the ball to ground or even out of bounds for a throw in. The Hawks however, have been one of the best ball users in the last five years, until this year. Hawthorn will need to find some of that trademark foot skill that has been eluding them for the first month of the season.
LAST FIVE TIMES:
R22, 2016, WCE 13.14 92 d Hawks 10.7 67 at Domain Stadium
R2, 2016, Hawks 14.15 99 d WCE 7.11 53 at MCG
GF, 2015 Hawks 16.11 107 d WCE 8.13 61 at MCG
2QF, 2015 WCE 14.12 96 d Hawks 9.10 64 at Domain Stadium
R19, 2015 Hawks 13.10 88 d WCE 11.8 74 at Domain Stadium
PREDICTION: West Coast by 13 points