Effort was there, was it polish?
Look, I think we acknowledge in the end that they got it done, the Hawks. We acknowledge that they are chasing three and they are a pretty good outfit. We obviously started well, some undisciplined acts really – off the ball, wasn’t ideal.
I thought we invited them back in. I think Sutcliffe wasn’t much, just checking Hodge and it flicked high. But that’s two off the ball goals in the first quarter when you’re playing a great team. It sat us back on our haunches and we know we wanted to kick and spread them. When we did that, we were good, but we fell into the handball game a little bit and they took full toll.
And then – it was pretty solid at quarter time. I think we responded pretty well. They had a fair bit of possession without penetration and then they took all of their opportunities. I think we had a full head of steam a little bit of the rub of the green maybe. In the end I thought our skill and decision in our defensive 50 cost us.
Tommy Sheridan is sitting there really upset. That’s not the reason we lost, but obviously it was a critical moment, a couple of set shots. We missed a few from 20m, but the dropped mark and goals when we had them and another two turnovers in the D50 in the last quarter. Which gives them three. I think they had had four entries and kicked three goals from us messing it up in our D50. But that wasn’t intentional.
We need to get better kicks and better decisions. That probably took a little bit of wind out of our sails and then from there we had to do a couple of things to open it up a little bit more.
I thought we were in the game. I thought we were, then we weren’t, then we got right back into it. I thought we had them on the back foot in a sense, but kicks inside 50, marks not called distance, not taking your opportunities – a high one here and then it goes down the other end. You know, ifs buts and maybes, but in the end they were too good.
What did you say to Tommy?
I put my arm around him and at the end of the day, they (Hawthorn) are a great team. You can’t shoot out against them, obviously we’re not a shoot out team. Obviously we’d like to improve all aspects of our game. But the seven teams that beat them reduced their entries and shots. I think we did that very well – they kicked really straight, but you can’t make those sorts of errors off the ball. I’m more concerned with discipline off the ball but let’s not blame them.
So what do I say to Tommy “I know you’re upset mate but it’s a brutal game, we’re not playing tiddlywinks, we’re trying to get to an AFL Grand Final against a team that looks like they could be a triple premiership team.”
Paul Roos really values dropped marks and fumbles. I thought we fumbled a bit and dropped marks when we shouldn’t have and that sort of fuelled them when they were right on the back foot. But to their credit, they never gave up. So Tom, I put my arm around him and gave him a cuddle, he’s upset, but gee whizz. We had three of our four draftees from four years ago playing, (Cameron) Sutcliffe, (Tom) Sheridan and (Lachie) Neale. Tommy is a young kid from Riddle Creek that came across to Perth to become an absolute pro, a young leader and so he’s a big part of our future.
Is Fyfe injured?
He was never not going to play but he was limping from the start. So I have paid tribute to his mental toughness because he comes in with huge expectation and his own personal standards. He was always going to play and he pulled up from the Sydney game really well and then he lost a bit of his hop. He really only trained once, which was Wednesday and obviously he needed some assistance to play. But he’s mentally tough and a champion of our club, but there was a view that there is no long term damage. He’ll be sore tomorrow – he was always going to play. I thought he started slow and then wheeled himself into the game. He’s going to lead this club eventually.
Did he need a jab?
What if you’d won tonight, would have he played in the Grand Final?
He would have been fine. He definitely would have played. It would have been the same issue. He was a little unlucky. He was having one of the greatest seasons ever and then runs into a unique injury, the periostitis. We don’t know where it came from. He finished the game healthy and it just popped up. He has fought like a caged lion really.
Ten goals... is it back to drawing board to find more?
I know those questions are coming. First of all we acknowledge we played a great team. First half of the year we got the balance right. We still weren’t kicking 120 points, but 97 points is pretty healthy. Everyone’s team defences got better. We need to improve, we can improve our system. But if you think you’re going to come and kick 10 points against Hawthorn. Do you know what the average score is when they have been beaten?
If you’re going to elude to that point. The seven teams that have beaten them, I think they averaged 76 points for Hawthorn and the team against kicked 90 or 88. So it’s not a shootout that gets it done against Hawthorn. But we acknowledge that. We’d like to improve our offence, we would like more players of the calibre of Michael Walters and when Matthew has been at his best. We have a young rookie player Matthew Taberner who fought on. I don’t see us with a salary cap advantage to go and get a power forward for a $1 million. That doesn’t happen, so we are going to have to find a way to get more front end talent through.
We might get a midfielder though and play Fyfe forward. I know those questions are coming and that’s fine but I think if you recognise the Eagles might be able to do it. Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Mark LeCras and those guys might be able to get it done, but we acknowledge that we need to improve. I am not sure you were asking those questions when we were coming home like a steam train and were all over them and dominating entries. Do you know what I mean?
Are you confident in the current group if you lose Matthew and Luke?
I think there are two parts to that question. I can’t enlighten you on Luke or Matthew, because I haven’t had one discussion over pre-season or to this moment about what they are doing next year. So I can’t help you with that. Not one conversation with Luke McPharlin or Matthew Pavlich about next year, so I can’t enlighten you at all, you’re going to have to ask them and hopefully we’ll have a discussion at some point. So I can’t enlighten you. I know we need to get better. They’re at the end, but our list is in pretty good shape, particularly our young midfielders and flankers. We have Alex Pearce coming through, we’re thrilled with Lachie Weller, Connor Blakeley and Ed Langdon. We’re pretty young in a sense. But we know we’d like to get that talent through but that’s hard to get.
What are your thoughts on the Hawk’s style of football?
They didn’t score out of their defensive 50 which was unusual. But their defensive mid possession scores were healthy, but not over the top. There’s a bit of that backwards kicks, sometimes you can come forward to stop it and then it just becomes a chain. We probably just sat off it a little more tonight so containment and try to get it back more centre wing, which we did a little bit.
Take more opportunities?
Under that style of footy, yes. We acknowledge it was always going to be tight and tough.
How critical was the Suckling v Griffin goal?
I think you just package it under discipline, skill and decision making - they are important. I look at efficiency at half time and they are 78 per cent and we’re 50 per cent. And people talk about fatigue. I read an article that people talked about fatigue in the '89 GF. People run into the goals in the first quarter and miss, that’s not fatigue. There are people 20m out in the first quarter and the second quarter, that’s not fatigue, that’s skill and mentally responding.
It’s costly but we win and lose together. It’s not the sole reason but if you put things together you come out where you should be in a bit better shape, but we weren’t. There is no recrimination, my boys win and lose together. My boys lay exhausted, not victorious, we acknowledge we got beaten by a better opponent. We also acknowledge the coaching panel needs to improve. Our system needs to improve. I need to improve.
But I think if we all have that mentality, we’re really honest and we all want to improve and work hard. I think we come back regenerated and challenge ourselves. Clearly Hawthorn have set the pace for a long time and everyone is trying to find ways, but you have to improve your list, you have to improve your coaching panel. You have to improve your system and you have to aim to grow. I’m not sitting here going 'I’m a genius'.
I’m sitting here thinking I’m not getting it done. I have two years to run on a contract, they brought me over to win, we’re winning a fair bit, we’ve created some history on top, but fallen short. I’m sitting here knowing I need to improve but I am hungry to do that and we’re pretty keen as a club to do that..
Would you do anything different?
No, we want to create players that are good enough to match him (Mitchell) he’s an absolute pro.
You worked the group harder than ever during the pre-season what did you learn?
I’ll tell you what I learnt, what I learnt is, it’s all about relativity. What happens if you be specific and you say we worked and you give percentages and everything’s going well everyone goes ‘that’s super’. But what happens is that becomes an albatross in moments like this. The reality is in my whole time as a senior coach my players always had Saturday and Sunday off all over pre-season and they ran three times a week Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So what happens is, you see opportunity to match what other clubs are doing, not go past them. Other clubs have been training Saturday mornings and getting Friday and Saturday, so what we identified is an opportunity, but what happens when you be specific and things don’t go your way all of a sudden it becomes the albatross around your neck, which is okay but you make assumptions that we’ve flogged them and done more but no, we’re actually just probably missing an opportunity. Does that make sense? It’s okay, it’s fingernail depth scratching analysis and therefore not pertinent to this discussion.
Can you put your finger on the main reasons your form dropped off after a while?
That’s a really good question, we were working hard all year to get that back and we worked hard on our ball movement all year and we wanted to be more offensive. I think it’s as much about personnel. Matt Taberner was playing really good football, Matthew Pavlich was playing really good football and Zac Clarke was playing really good football. But what happens is, form, injury for a couple of them and Michael Johnson gets injured. That’s what happens. It’s not like you push them down the race and they just all hold form. I think if you benchmark us against the other top four teams, there is a reason we’ve been chasing (Travis) Cloake, (Lance) Franklin and (Tom) Hawkins, because I think if you really draw the parallels and you want to do an analysis I think it’s fair to say in the tall department it’s not exactly where we would like it to be against teams that are in the top four.
Can that be a development thing? Are some of the guys you’ve put faith in not advancing quick enough?
Matt Taberner was a second round rookie pick, go and do the benchmarks on Drew Petrie in his first four years. He averaged six to 10 possessions and now he’s become a top flight forward. He’s (Taberner) a rookie list player who's played two final series in a row. Alex Pearce is a second year key defender who’s played 13 games and finished with a torn calf. Michael Apeness had a torn posterior and a reconstructed posterior and he’s another tall. I think Pearce and Taberner have developed and Michael Apeness is injured. I’m not sure who else hasn’t come on, but I’m happy to hear it. I can’t identify anyone else on the list.
What about Zac Clarke?
He’s probably one with 100 games but he’s more of a ruckman than a forward.
You used him as a forward...
Only because we had Aaron Sandilands (in the ruck). I think it’s a really good question but sometimes we ignore our own advice.
Were the umpires over the top in the first quarter?
It’s hard for me. I did see the replays. At the end of the day the umpires can review their own, I’ve got enough on my plate. It’s not ideal though is it? I’m not bad at moving on. I’m more disappointed in my players, I don’t want them to invite the opportunity, but that’s not why we lost.