Hawthorn were content for most of the game to sit back and wait for North to fall into their trap and then picked their moments to attack Rhyce Shaw’s side. As a result, they led the inside 50 count by a whopping 15 entries at the final break.
Their midfielders like Liam Shiels, James Worpel, Tom Mitchell and Wingard quite simply used the ball better, even though North seemed to have more first cracks at possession.
Wingard was excellent for the Hawks. The former Port Adelaide player was dangerous around the midfield, pushed forward to kick three goals and provided some moments of genius to help his team.
At one point in the third quarter he jumped high to smother a kick, gathered the ball and then rifled off a dribbling handball through North defenders into the arms of a teammate.
The Hawks didn’t even need a meaningful input from star on-baller Jaegar O’Meara. He struggled to get into the game into the first term and looked injured at one point, but thankfully recovered.
North’s gearbox problem
North fixed it late in the final term. But prior to that it was their downfall.
Shaw’s Kangaroos like to kick the ball long up the line and back in their midfielders to win the ball on the ground and launch into their forward 50 like that. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s much easier when you’ve got Ben Cunnington’s brute strength at the bottom of the pack.
The one-man-wrecking-ball can easily account for two or three tacklers and release to teammates, yet he was a late out on Sunday.
In round one players like Shaun Higgins and Aaron Hall were able to change North’s gears. When the ball was in the hands of players like him, they cleverly worked their way through St Kilda’s defence and mounted a stirring come from behind victory.
Marley Williams tried to give them some propulsion off the half-back line in the second quarter and his efforts sparked a couple of goals. He had few allies in this respect for much of the game.
Brown vs Big Boy
Ben McEvoy lining up on Ben Brown in the goal square is up there with a global pandemic in the things we thought we weren’t going to see in 2020. Yet, here we are.
McEvoy’s move to defence has been much publicised but actually seeing him chase around one of the best forwards in the competition, instead of crashing into one of the game’s best ruckman, is jarring.
Brown is smart. He used Hawks defenders and his teammates as walls to block McEvoy so he could get free. Problem was North’s kicking inside 50 wasn’t optimal, and the Hawks did well covering for McEvoy. Mostly, McEvoy did well to tail Brown around the ground.
Brown had an afternoon to forget despite the late goal, but it wasn’t all his doing.
HAWTHORN 2.3 5.6 7.6 8.10 (58)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 4.3 4.3 8.6 (54)
GOALS – Hawthorn: Wingard 3, Breust, Shiels, Lewis, Burgoyne, O’Brien.
North Melbourne: Hall, Brown, Taylor, Zurhaar, Anderson, Simpkin, Thomas, Xerri.
BEST – Hawthorn: Wingard, Shiels, Worpel, Mitchell, Henderson, McEvoy, Smith, Sicily.
North Melbourne: Higgins, Anderson, Goldstein, Walker, Williams.
INJURIES – Hawthorn: Patton (foot) replaced in selected side by Lewis.
North Melbourne: Cunnington (back) replaced in selected side by Ahern, Ziebell (left hamstring).
UMPIRES: Mollison, Hosking, O’Gorman, Power.
VENUE: Marvel Stadium.
Anthony is a sports and general news reporter at The Age.