Hawthorn ripped over 'really poor' scenes in AFL hiding by Essendon
The Hawks have copped a brutal truth bomb after their 59-point flogging in the AFL.
AFL great Leigh Montagna has torn Hawthorn to shreds after a worrying display in their 59-point thrashing by Essendon at the MCG on Sunday. The two sides were hoping to kick off their AFL seasons in positive fashion after both finished well outside the finals positions in a disappointing 2022.
However, any optimism the Hawks may have had for 2023 was dealt a brutal reality check as Essendon scored at will against coach Sam Mitchell's men. The Bombers put a tumultuous off-season behind them courtesy of a 19.10 (124) to 9.11 (65) win against their arch-rivals.
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Mitchell admitted his side were a “a long way” off where he expected them to be, with Sunday's insipid performance suggesting the club's rebuild is going to take much longer than hoped. Even though Essendon were missing their top two goal-kickers from last season - Peter Wright (shoulder) and Jake Stringer (hamstring) - the Bombers managed to score at will against the hapless Hawks, with 13 different players getting on the scoresheet.
“Essendon, credit to them but it was really poor by the Hawks,” Montagna said on Fox Footy’s First Crack. “We know they’re a young side, we know it’s going to be a long burn, but gee you want to be patient as a Hawthorn fan from what we saw today and what they dished up.
“When you’re playing like types, there are only so many winnable games when you’re going to be a bottom-four team – and they would’ve been expecting to perform much better than they did. Their system was poor, their effort was poor and their execution was poor.”
One particularly concerning statistic from Sunday's mauling was the fact Hawthorn recorded the lowest pressure rating score of the round, and lower than any team's score in 2022. “They’ve gone from five wins, seven wins, eight wins. They’re going to go backwards with wins this year. It’s a long, long time to do this rebuild," Montagna added.
Hawthorn had won their past five round one matches and used this season-opener to honour the 1983 premiership team, who mauled Essendon in that year's grand final. But the Bombers showed a far better sense of occasion, producing a solid win that left the Hawks coach searching for answers.
"We're all disappointed with how it panned out and how quickly the scoreboard got out of hand," Mitchell said. "Today was a long way from what we expected.
“They jumped us a little bit and I thought we handled it well for a quarter, but it was really disappointing that we weren’t able to make the most of our opportunities in that first part of the game. It then got worse from there, so I’m really disappointed with the second half in particular obviously.
"We just couldn’t find a way going forward. Our defence held up not too bad at different stages – but once it fell apart – it fell apart badly, and I think that was the most disappointing things to come out of the game."
Essendon cult hero returns with a bang
The two biggest cheers in Essendon's big win came when cult figure Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was subbed on in the last quarter, and soon after when he kicked a goal. It was the small forward's first senior game since late in the 2021 season after he retired briefly last year, before being convinced to re-join the Bombers.
"It was a great moment for Essendon fans and our club. We've had some tough times over the last little period there," Essendon coach Brad Scott said of McDonald-Tipungwuti, nicknamed "Walla". While perspective is important - we have a long way to go - we should celebrate the little moments too."
As late as two days ago, Essendon's off-season hell persisted when reigning club best-and-fairest champion Wright dislocated his shoulder at training. It happened barely a couple of hours after the Bombers had announced a four-year contract for Wright, who will miss most of the season.
That failed to take the gloss off a solid opening round win for the Bombers, with father-son recruit Alwyn Davey kicking a goal on debut and Jordan Ridley having his first AFL goal in his 69th game. Highly-rated youngster Archie Perkins showcased his talent, kicking three goals and taking seven marks, while on-baller Darcy Parish had a game-high 37 possessions.
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