Main content

Five things we learned: Hawthorn v Melbourne

Highlights: Hawthorn v Melbourne The Hawks and Demons clash in the first semi final

1. Demons can win in multiple ways
Melbourne had little right to be ahead at half-time. Hawthorn led most of the categories – contested possessions, clearances and inside 50s – that made the Demons statistical darlings throughout the season. But Simon Goodwin's men used instantaneous ball movement to hurt the Hawks when they did get a look in and that efficiency was crucial in the 33-point victory. It was another sign of Melbourne's maturity, and when Hawthorn slipped up a couple of times in the third quarter the Demons made their more experienced rivals pay. Melbourne again rose to the occasion once the inevitable brown-and-gold charge came at the start of the final term, as it hung on to advance to a preliminary final.

DEMONS' DREAM CONTINUES Full match details and stats

2. Breust will lose sleep about these finals
There is no doubting Hawk Luke Breust's quality, but this was a September to forget. His horror miss from 15 metres out directly in front in the second quarter last week against Richmond came when Hawthorn was challenging. Breust kicked a last-quarter major to avoid a goalless night on that occasion, but he wasn't so fortunate this week. He had one of the AFL's best small defenders in Neville Jetta for company and failed to fire again without bothering the scorers.

GET TO THE GAME All your finals ticketing info


3. These aren't the same, sure Hawks
Hawthorn has long been associated with composure and surety, especially on the biggest of stages, but that wasn't the case on Friday night. James Frawley cost his side with a dangerous kick in the second quarter that ultimately led to a Sam Weideman major. But it was the third term where things went awry. Jack Gunston was the Hawks' most dangerous forward all night and had just kicked a goal when he bolted onto the loose Sherrin headed for another. He ran to within 20m – admittedly on an angle – and thumped the ball into the post. That made Hawthorn's deficit 14 points rather than nine. Shortly after, James Sicily was on the burst out of defensive 50 and dished a handball to Liam Shiels, expecting the ball back, but Shiels fluffed it and Demon Charlie Spargo gleefully gifted Alex Neal-Bullen a simple goal.

WATCH Three moments that mattered in the first semi-final


4. There is a reason why Spargo keeps being picked
There were calls for Jeff Garlett to replace teenage rookie Charlie Spargo in Melbourne's line-up for Friday night's semi-final, but that was never going to happen. For all Garlett's match-winning qualities, the Demons' coaching staff rightly prioritise defensive pressure out of their small forwards. Spargo delivers that in spades and complemented those efforts with an impressive offensive display, too. He ended the night with 12 disposals (eight contested), three tackles, two goals and seven score involvements. Coach Simon Goodwin was delighted with Spargo's contribution. "I thought his tackle pressure inside forward 50 was certainly the hallmark of his game and his drop of ball (positioning). He's really emerging as a player for us and he's had a terrific first season, but it was great to see him getting into the game tonight."

5. Not selecting another midfielder wasn't the problem
Eyebrows were raised when Hawthorn chose not to bring in any midfield help despite prime-mover Jaeger O'Meara (knee) being a major out. Young onballer James Cousins was an emergency and is in strong form in the VFL, but perhaps it was too big an ask to back up from playing on Sunday. Either way, the Hawks led Melbourne in disposals (178-164), contested possessions (67-63), clearances (17-15) and inside 50s (30-23) at half-time. Much of that owed to Brownlow Medal favourite Tom Mitchell, who battled through a sore AC joint to still have 12 disposals (nine contested), seven clearances and three inside 50s by then. Only Jack Viney had more than four contested possessions among the Demons at that stage. Three of the aforementioned four statistics swung in Melbourne's favour by the finish, but that wasn't the reason Hawthorn lost.