Kinetic Energy: Hawks put speed on the ball in second term surge

HAWTHORN opened its 2023 AFL Women’s season with a 19-point loss to Essendon, but stood a strong chance of snatching victory after a second quarter surge. With the Frankston breeze at their backs, the Hawks tinkered with their style and grabbed the ascendancy at half time.

What held the home side in good stead was its inside 50 efficiency. Essendon made no secret of its intention to bolster the defensive end and would have been pleased to have kept Hawthorn to a single goal in term one. Two majors sailed through at the other end to see the Bombers lead 14-6.

The worrying trend, though, was that Essendon failed to properly capitalise on its time in forward half dominance. At the first break, the Bombers had 15 inside 50s for four scoring shots, while Hawthorn scored full points off its lone entry, via the boot of Bridie Hipwell.

Even that was arguably against the run of play, and Hawthorn had few players willing to put speed on the ball or overlap in transitional play – hence the Hawks’ inability to go end-to-end. That all changed in the second quarter, and Hawthorn took toll with just as much value for its forward entries.

After Essendon extended its inside 50 lead to 16-1, with Bonnie Toogood making the margin 14 points within 90 seconds, Hawthorn began to shift the territory battle. A 10-minute purple patch saw the Hawks hit the front, before Essendon sured things up with spare numbers behind the ball.

At one point in the quarter, Hawthorn had three overall inside 50s for four scoring shots, putting their efficiency up to a remarkable 150 per cent. It ended up evening out to nine inside 50s for six scoring shots (3.3), as the Hawks held onto a one-point lead at the main break.

The key difference makers, in their own unique ways, were star midfielders Emily Bates and Jasmine Fleming. Along with skipper Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Bates was hard at the contest and generated forward momentum through constant effort, while Fleming used her turn of speed to break the game open.

Ruck Tamara Luke was also made her presence felt around the ball as more Hawks began to jump on board with the kind of approach each member of the aforementioned quartet executed. Hawthorn ended up winning the overall hitout count (43-22), stoppage clearances (26-21), and tackles (103-57).

The term two turnaround, though ultimately in vain, gave Hawthorn a sniff at rolling last year’s top expansion side. Essendon did similar damage in the third quarter to lead by an even two goals, before proving resolute in the fourth against the advantageous breeze.

It was a case of the Bombers delivering on their defensive improvements, with coach Natalie Wood shuffling the magnets and her troops shutting down dangerous Hawks like Greta Bodey (seven disposals, no goals).

While Madison Prespakis toiled away in midfield and Toogood won her plaudits up forward, the likes of Sophie Van De Heuvel and Sophie Alexander produced mega defensive shifts in the second half to see out a strong opening round win at the ground Hawthorn hopes to make its fortress – Kinetic Stadium.

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