Cats fans are spoiled. On a weekly basis Tom Hawkins gets bashed for his performances, and unfairly so. We seem to have an obsession with bagging our forwards. Mooney has been a target, but before that there were many.
Kent Kinglsey, Brett Spinks, David Mensch, Mitchell White. All copped it at various points in their careers, some more deserving than others. Perhaps it was the vacuum created by G. Ablett Snr, or perhaps its just that big forwards are an easy target when a side isn’t performing.
I’m not exactly sure what the question mark on Tommy is, but I get the feeling it’s goalkicking, disposal and marking.
His goalkicking hasn’t been superb thus far in ’10 at 7.8, but it’s not terrible. Surely he earned himself some cred when he nailed the pressure shot in the final term of the GF, some 50m out with a howling cross breeze, to bring his team back into the game?
His disposal can be errant sometimes, but it will improve given enough time and experience under pressure.
He has dropped a few easy marks, but so has Jimmy Bartel, so has Cam Mooney. 40 marks, 8 contested puts him at the upper end of the Cats list, and his stats are ok when compared to the other forwards. Pods 41/17, Mooney 38/12, Stevie J 41/7. Nothing glaring here.
Tommahawk isn’t setting the world on fire – he’s no J. Brown or Pavlich, but at the same time, he’s not playing that bad.
The Pods – Mooney – Tommahawk triumvirate has worked pretty well since the Freo game (team scores of 118, 159, 68, 161, 126) with the exception of the Carlton debacle, which can hardly be pinned on the forwards. I’m happy with how he’s going in 2010, and goals shouldn’t be all he’s judged on.
Here’s a few thoughts on why he deserves his role in the side.
i.)He takes a tall defender.
If you want Hawkins out, then who replaces him? Stokes is due back, and Rooke can play forward when he returns, but every top-4 contender has defenders who can cover small-forwards two and three at a time, but as Bomber pointed out after the demolition of Port, there aren’t too many sides who can thwart 3 tall power forwards. PMT will cause many opposition coaches headaches in match committee meetings, and I think that is where half the battle is fought and won. Pods & Mooney have shown over the past month that they are both capable of 5 goal hauls, but credit has to go to Hawkins who takes some of the (finite) defensive pressure opposition sides can apply.
ii.)His explosive pace.
Tommahawk can accelerate well, which for a big body his no small achievement. He might not yet have mastered the overhead marking to the level of Moons and Pods, but he leads well. Even if Gaz, Selwood and co aren’t going for Tom every time he presents, his leading is still a very handy tool. I often notice he heads out to the flanks, sometimes a touch earlier than he should were he presenting for the i50 from the midfield. However I suspect that this may sometimes be a ploy. Hawkins takes his man to the flanks, leaving space at the top of the 50 for the other two talls. Add to that there’s potential for the smaller crumbing players to run into space at the top of the square. I think this type of strategy is part of the Geelong game-plan from time to time, as it would be any other team with more than one power forward
iii.) He’s 21.
I heard a basketball quote the other day that went something like
“You give a short player 3 minutes to show you he can play, and a tall player 3 years to show you he can’t play.”
Big players usually take years to develop, both physically and mentally. Sure there are exceptions, but Tom isn’t one of them. He has shown continual progress in his 50 games, and I haven’t seen anything that leads me to believe he has serious flaws in his game.
He can ruck, and considering Otto’s inury curse, that is a huge plus. Teams don’t get too far in finals without a few good ruckman.
v.)His offensive pressure and work rate.
He won the Army award last year for his double tackling effort. There’s no doubt he has made offensive pressure a big focus as a means to get himself into games. It also takes a fair bit of character to keep at it when you or your side is down. He is at it for four quarters, smothering, sheparding, presenting for kicks, tackling. This is a quality that should be nurtured in a young player, because it’s the sort of stuff that can win your team finals.
The Pods story is a great one, and we all love it when Moons is up and about kicking goals. But the fact remains that they are both older players with short careers ahead of them, AND potentially frailer bodies. It’s all well and good to bag Tommahawk and call for him to be dropped when the side is up and about, relatively injury free, but what happens if Pods’ hammy goes in round 21? Mooney gets rubbed out in a prelim? Tommahawk is Geelong’s September insurance policy, much like Duncan & Hogan. The difference being that bigger players usually find it harder to find their rhythm. It’s no good having the big fella twidling his thumbs in the ressies waiting for an injury, whereas it’s easier to slot Hoags, Duncan and Vegas Gamble in and out. That might not be a pleasant reality for those other, smaller players, but like it or not, Tommy’s not going to do much come September if he doesn’t have much senior game time leading up to the finals.
Joel Corey, Matthew Stokes, Brad Ottens and Maxy Rooke are all, at their peak, in the best 22. Players will need to make room for these guys, and Hawkins might find himself without a spot. That is testament to Geelong’s incredible depth, not a failing of Tom Hawkins.