Cameron Zurhaar, with Ben Brown, has been a find for the Kangaroos. Picture: AAP
Cameron Zurhaar, with Ben Brown, has been a find for the Kangaroos. Picture: AAP

The Tackle: Age catching up with weary Hawks

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has nearly conceded the season but his concerns don't end with his team's list profile.

The Hawks are neither a contested nor uncontested team and big-name recruit Chad Wingard is terribly out of form.

When it comes to brining the heat to a contest, look no further than ladder leaders Geelong.

And Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli is making a compelling case for best player in the league.

Check out Robbo's likes and dislikes from Round 7.





In footy, it's OK to be young and bad and it's OK to be old and good, but you don't want to be old and bad.

Coach Alastair Clarkson flagged concerns on Saturday after Hawthorn lost to Melbourne.

"It could be 10 years (until our next flag) or it could be 10 months (2020)," he said.

"I don't think it's going to be four months … given we're 3-4 now."

To be 3-4 is not the end of your season. But Clarkson's concerns are real.

The Hawks used to control the ball and the game.

They were never the best contested team, but they were a great uncontested team.

Now they are poor at both aspects of the game.

In 2015, their last premiership season, the Hawks' disposals differential was +37 (ranked No.1).

This year they are -34 (ranked No.17).

The contested possession was +1 (ranked ninth) and now is -10 (ranked 16th). And the biggie - uncontested possession differential - was +37 (ranked first) and is now -26 (ranked 16th).

If Carlton's Harry McKay had marked the ball two seconds earlier last weekend, and kicked the goal, the Hawks would be 2-5 and their season would truly be over.


The dejected Hawks leave the field after their loss to Melbourne. Picture: AAP
The dejected Hawks leave the field after their loss to Melbourne. Picture: AAP




Clarkson was celebrated for his rebuilding job starting from the middle of 2017, just 18 months after he won the 2015 flag.

But that renovation has stalled, if you listen to Clarko.

The concern is the Hawks fielded the oldest team in Round 7. Their average age was nearing 27 and their average experience was 128 games, both ranked No.1.

They have nine players aged more than 30 on their list; six played on Saturday.

You have to wonder what lies ahead for the Hawks.

Do they continue to attack free agency and trade for players, or make it a priority to keep their first-round selections to bring in some top-end youth?




There are more issues than the form of the big-name recruit, which has been poor since Wingard suffered a calf injury after Christmas.

But he has now played five games and is in close to career-worst touch. His average of 65 ranking points is the lowest number since Wingard's debut season in 2012. Same with his disposals, clearances, and score involvements.

And he dropped the mark that would have given him an opportunity to win Saturday's game for the Hawks.

Wingard is a curious player, - so curious that you'd love to know exactly why Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley seemed happy to put him on the trade table. Was it only a lack of work rate?


Chad Wingard’s form has been poor this season. Picture: Michael Klein
Chad Wingard’s form has been poor this season. Picture: Michael Klein




Essendon had more inside-50s (49-46) and was beaten by 32 points.

The Bombers were made to look blue collar by Geelong.

It wasn't so much a reality check, they met the best team in the competition and found they were five goals behind them.

Essendon was stifled in its forward 50m and got nothing from Joe Daniher, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Mark Baguley or Aaron Francis when their customary run through the middle was thwarted.

Essendon is a good team, but the Cats are outstanding.



Bachar Houli found himself in the abyss on Saturday night.

Full of courage to go back with the flight of the ball just before halftime, he was marginally touched as Caleb Daniel tried to spoil. Houli went to ground and put his hands close to his head to either accentuate the contact or trying to claim the mark.

Only Houli knows which one.

As for the free kick for high contact, Seven commentator Cameron Ling was unconvinced. "We see that a million times a game and they're not paid,'' Ling said.



It was one step forward for the Blues and five steps back, such was their pathetic display.

No pressure, lack of cohesive effort, outnumbered at the contest, woeful skills and decision-making.

It was the kind of defeat that puts the spotlight right back on the club.

The supporters were livid, as they should be. Their hopes had grown to the point where they believed these uncompetitive performances were behind them. Not now.

Their pressure rating was a dismal 169 compared to North Melbourne's 189, which allowed the Kangas to compile 447 possessions.

Little wonder Blues fans booed their own.


It was five steps back for Brendon Bolton’s Carlton. Picture: AAP
It was five steps back for Brendon Bolton’s Carlton. Picture: AAP




Introduced this year because of Toby Greene's apparent liking for kung fu moves when marking, I can't remember it being used this season.

There was an incident in Perth on Saturday night.

West Coast's Josh Kennedy was waiting under a high ball and, as Brayden Fiorini ran in to contest the mark, Kennedy raised his boot to fend him off. Kennedy took the mark and Fiorini walked off rubbing the top of his leg.

"What happened to the Toby Greene rule?'' Jason Dunstall wondered. "It looked like studs-up.''

Matthew Pavlich replied: "It's a brave umpire to pay it in front of goal with Josh Kennedy playing so well.''

Who cares if it's a brave decision? Just get them right.




If Michael Christian cares about sending a message, Billy Gowers should be suspended.

The Bulldog's headbutt of Richmond's Dylan Grimes on Saturday night looked deliberate.

It will likely be ticked off as low impact because of the lack of injury to, or concern from, Grimes.

But it would be a most forgiving professional sport if a player was only fined and not suspended for using his head as a weapon.




I am a supporter of player access and bringing more of the game to viewers, but activating the umpires' microphones while hot-tempered players are going at each other only invites bad language into living rooms.

When Nick Vlastuin called Gowers a "f---- dog'' at a melee it was picked up by the Channel 7 microphones.

Not sure the players' association would be pleased to have its players so exposed.







Geelong has talent, experience and youth, and is powerful in the three areas of the ground.

Its best weapon might be its coaches' organisation and the way the players implement the plan.

The Cats were conceding an average of 67 points, but they kept the Bombers to just 54.

They don't seem to strangle teams, more restrict the ball movement and not allow easy options.

To stop Essendon you have to stop ball movement from the backline, and the Bombers were restricted to just 27 points from the back half after averaging 39 in the first six weeks.

No Joel Selwood and no Patrick Dangerfield for a half and yet the Cats creamed the opposition, which not so long ago would've been an unlikely scenario.



Brandan Parfitt’s pressure was elite against the Bombers. Picture: Getty Images
Brandan Parfitt’s pressure was elite against the Bombers. Picture: Getty Images




If you want to play for the Cats, you need to bring the heat.

Selwood's absence gave Brandan Parfitt his opportunity and he compiled 70 pressure points. If that was his average, it would make him the No.1 pressure player in the league.

Cam Guthrie, another recent inclusion after having to earn his spot in the VFL, had 72.

The five best pressure players were Guthrie, Parfitt, Tom Atkins (59), Tim Kelly (53) and Gryan Miers (45), two of them being first-year players and Kelly a second-year player.

No surprise the Cats are the hottest team in the comp.



There was Aaron Naughton's mitts, Caleb Daniel's smarts, Hayden Crozier's rebound, and the all-round influence of Marcus Bontempelli.

The Bont is right in the conversation for best player in the AFL. He is averaging career highs for disposals (28), contested possies (13) and clearances (seven), and the more you see him the more you realise how much his hip injury hampered him last year.

He'd probably be considered the game's most influential player if he could just kick straight.

He's had 19 shots at goal for only five goals, although his first from the boundary line on Saturday night set the Bulldogs on their course.



Marcus Bontempelli is in hot form. Picture: Getty Images
Marcus Bontempelli is in hot form. Picture: Getty Images



This was a team under glaring pressure and it found its collective spirit.

The Roos were +35 in contested ball. Amazingly, their 290 uncontested possessions almost matched Carlton's total possession count of 319.

Plenty to like - and one to be excited about. Cameron Zurhaar is 21 in two weeks and played just his 13th game. He kicked five goals from 12 kicks, took five marks and laid four tackles.

The Roos love him because he has talent and he's hard at it and, at 188cm, can apply elite pressure.

Much has been said about Shinboner spirit. You'd think the old boys would like what they see in Zurhaar.



That was Gaff's best game of the season.

He is winning more of the ball this year, but his impact has been minimised because he turns the ball over and is not hitting the scoreboard.

It's quite amazing where he sits in Champion Data's ratings. He is averaging career highs for disposals (33), contested possessions (10.4) and clearances (4.8) and career-lows for kicking efficiency (56 per cent), score involvements (four) and goals (0.2).

Playing on a wing and onball against the hardworking Suns, Gaff produced season highs in several categories.

He needed it, because the question was being asked: Does Gaff really hurt sides?




Let's the hope the All-Australian selectors don't load the wing positions with midfielders at the end of the year because a wealth of high-performing wingmen is on offer.

This will shock, but Champion Data ranks Gaff No.41 on the list of wingmen.

First is Brisbane's Hugh McCluggage, who was again a standout in the win over the Swans with 24 touches and two goals.

The top 10 are McCluggage, Ricky Henderson, Josh Kelly, Joel Selwood, Brad Hill, David McKay, Sam Walsh, Ed Langdon, Jared Polec and Steele Sidebottom.

The rankings criteria focus on possessions, where you win the ball, and what you do with the ball.


Hugh McCluggage is the top-ranked wingman this year. Picture: Getty Images
Hugh McCluggage is the top-ranked wingman this year. Picture: Getty Images




Melbourne defender Sam Frost is a bull at the gate at the best of times and his last two minutes at the MCG on Saturday might have been the finest of his career.

He trapped a ball with three opponents circling and killed Hawthorn's momentum in one effort on the wing.

He then made a massive impact in the final 20 seconds when he spoiled the potential matchwinning Wingard mark then dived at and tapped the loose ball towards Jaeger O'Meara.

He then launched again and won the ground ball in congestion and knocked it to teammate Jordan Lewis. And it was game over. That 20 seconds will feature prominently in the game review.




Plays third tall for the Giants, he and Zac Williams are forming a formidable rebounding pair.

Williams was probably best afield against the Saints and Haynes wasn't far behind.

Haynes has played forward once this year, in Round 2, and his best position is clearly in defence.

He had 26 disposals, a career-high 14 intercept possessions and 667m gained, alongside Williams' 30 disposals and 691m gained.




Other than the poor conversion, it was a total team performance by the Lions, starting with their +42 contested possessions.

It was also Martin's best game of the season. He had a match-high 10 score involvements against the Swans, and his 21 disposals and 33 hit-outs were both season highs. But he let himself down missing a couple of set shots.

To be honest, I thought his season had been only fair, but he still has the third-most disposals among ruckmen, behind only Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn.