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4 Points: Transformational change as footy fires back

Not all teams have transformational players. In the absence of finding one player to carry a club forward, some gather together a clutch of players to be the generation that changes the club.

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Patrick Cripps should be a transformational player, though his club is struggling to come with the change. Nick Riewoldt was one.

Patrick Dangerfield’s recruitment to Geelong helped transform the Cats from a team ready to slide to one that could defy gravity and rebuild on the run around him. He was and is transformational.

That said, it’s just as important to Geelong’s improvement this year that Joel Selwood is fit and able to move from a wing back onto the ball again. Selwood insisted he was OK last year but the way he moves again now is a reminder of how badly was hurting. The break might have helped him.

Hawthorn previously had Luke Hodge as that transformational player but he had the likes of Franklin, Roughead, Mitchell and Lewis around him. Who have they got now?

Who’ll step up for the Hawks?

When Alastair Clarkson anticipated the questions coming at him after Friday night’s loss to Geelong it was because he was asking himself similar questions.

Hawthorn looked terrible in the second half but were competitive for the first. The question Clarkson will ask himself, more than any from a pundit, is to what extent was it a real reflection of the Hawks? Where are they at? From the outside they look neither to be rising to contend, nor falling to rebuild.

Pandemic protocols: Patrick Dangerfield in his 350th AFL game bumps elbows with Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson.

Pandemic protocols: Patrick Dangerfield in his 350th AFL game bumps elbows with Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson. Credit:Getty Images

There should, of course, be a word of caution in rushing to judge any team or individual after one game back in this extraordinary, interrupted year of short games in a short season.

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The break, the shorter games, no crowds, the hubs, playing at unfamiliar grounds all leave a little asterisk on results and performance.

Hawthorn played well in round one and beat Brisbane, a bogey team. Jon Ceglar, beaten on Friday was good in round one.

Tom Mitchell, solid in round one, looked on Friday like a player who has played one game in 18 months.

Jaeger O’Meara was out with a fractured eyebrow, and Jarman Impey – underrated for his power and run off half-back – was not there.

So there are legitimate reasons to hold fire. But the broader question is whether the accumulator Mitchell, coming off a serious leg injury, can be the player to bridge to the next generation. Hawthorn, with an average age of 28, has the oldest list in the competition.

Grounded: Tom Mitchell hands off as Brandan Parfitt of the Cats applies a tackle during the round 2 encounter at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong on Friday night.

Grounded: Tom Mitchell hands off as Brandan Parfitt of the Cats applies a tackle during the round 2 encounter at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong on Friday night.Credit:Getty Images

They have done well in resurrecting the career of Tom Scully from a car crash ankle. They brought in Chad Wingard, who is an elite talent, and of course lost Cyril Rioli to early retirement. The impact of his loss cannot be overstated.

With O’Meara back in and Mitchell working to form after a long lay-off the view of the midfield that Clarkson admitted was third or fourth rate on Friday will change. But do they have the makeup to be a first rate midfield?

Jon Patton never looked nimble before his knee problems but drawing the best of him now will be a task.

Ben McEvoy behind the ball is an ambitious move. His best asset as a ruckman was intercept marking playing a kick behind the play. Moving him behind the ball, where they already had James Sicily doing that and with Sam Frost and James Frawley also back there, made for a back six that looked off-balance.

The Hawks had one bad game that prompts a lot of questions about their team. The questions about the impact of this season need to be decided before the questions about the team can really be answered.

Misplaced courage

Gill McLachlan praised the score reviewer’s bravery in overturning the goal umpire’s decision on Thursday night and awarding Jack Higgins a mark.

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Bravery is the last thing you need or want from a score reviewer. Their job requires no bravery.

The rules say that to overturn an umpire’s decision the video must be clear and compelling. If it is clear-cut it is not brave to say so. It’s only brave to overturn a decision when you are guessing. The video on Thursday night was inconclusive so the umpire’s call should have stood, just as it did on Sunday in Sydney.

Jamie McMillan touched the ball from Toby Greene’s kick on the goal line. The reviewer this time answered: “There is insufficient evidence to confirm or overturn the umpire’s call.”

Losing their heads

It wouldn’t be a return to footy if there wasn’t a score review blunder and a tribunal brouhaha.

Football duly delivered before we reached Saturday afternoon. First the Thursday night score review, then Friday night’s match review. Shaun Burgoyne should have received a week’s suspension for his tackle on Patrick Dangerfield.

It was deemed careless and low impact, but again we come back to potential to cause injury.

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