The rising tide on Hawkins Island
As soon as Leigh Montagna termed the phrase “Hawkins Island” about the Cats propensity to try and isolate Tom Hawkins at every opportunity in their forward 50, all eyes would be scrutinising it. Rest assured the Cats opponents have been doing that week in and week out as they plan for the Cats big forward. By far, Richmond was able to collapse their defence on Hawkins and his opponent Noah Balta at every opportunity giving Hawkins no ability to utilise his strength to hold off his opponent. But the questions for Cats coaches to ponder is both how the Cats were moving the ball further up the ground and also what personnel to put around Hawkins. It was a baptism of fire for Ben Jarvis who had to become the replacement for Hawkins’ normal tag team partner Gary Rohan. Jarvis was able to show great aerial ability for a mid-sized forward but Rohan’s forward half pressure has been unmatched in the AFL this season. Esava Ratugolea was able to get forward in the last quarter to provide a target but the overall damage was done by then. The good news for the Cats is there is still plenty of ways to tweak their attacking forays.
Don’t forget the other Tom
Whilst Tom Hawkins is having a career best season up forward and on track for his first Coleman Medal, don’t sleep on the Tom down the other end of the ground. Tom Stewart was a shining light on an otherwise dreary Friday night as he finished the night with 25 disposals, eight marks, three inside 50s and 564 meters gained. Since returning from a broken collarbone in round 8, Stewart has averaged 20.5 disposals, 7.2 marks and 4.7 intercepts per game and been a rock for the Cats backline. With his ability to repel attacks and then put the Cats deep into their half, Stewart will be a key player for the Cats against the Swans this week who trap the ball inside their 50 as good as anyone.
One last dance
Vision out of the AFL’s quarantine hub last week showed Gary Ablett Jnr taking on former Hawks foe Jarryd Roughead in a series of one on one battles. There is no doubting the Cats are missing Ablett’s sublime skill and ability in the forward half. The other key to Ablett’s game is that he disrupts the oppositions backline due to the threat he provides meaning his opponent can’t zone off him. The fact that the Cats six game winning streak didn’t include Ablett is something that should be seen as an opportunity for the team as no side is made worse by including a player of Ablett’s stature in it.
For those who like omens
Okay so this might be digging to the absolute bottom of the barrel, but for those out there who enjoy a good omen here is one to consider. In each of the Cats last three premierships, they have loss in the second last round. Does that take some sting out of Friday night’s loss? Probably not for the players.