Mark Neeld is under increasing pressure as Melbourne coach. Image courtesy of news.com.au/Getty Images
Last Five Meetings
Round 7, 2012 – Hawthorn 115 d Melbourne 49 (MCG)
Round 18, 2011 – Hawthorn 132 d Melbourne 78 (MCG)
Round 2, 2011 – Hawthorn 122 d Melbourne 77 (MCG)
Round 20, 2010 – Hawthorn 99 d Melbourne 78 (MCG)
Round 1, 2010 – Hawthorn 117 d Melbourne 61 (MCG)
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There is no doubt Alastair Clarkson was not a happy camper after the Hawks’ ordinary performance against the upstart Gold Coast Suns last weekend. The 26-point win was well and truly under the margin most expected, and the coach accused his team of playing just 20 minutes of hard footy.
Sunday’s clash with Melbourne is a chance for his team to show they can really slay a team, and they don’t just get up for the big clashes. The Demons are at just about their lowest ebb, and the team’s first half against Fremantle last weekend was barely worthy of an AFL-level outfit.
The Dees lose experienced former Cat Shannon Byrnes to a wrist injury with three others dropped. Midfielder James Magner gets the boot despite being one of his team’s best against the Dockers. The Hawks regain star backman Grant Birchall, while ruckman David Hale also makes a welcome return to the team, but lively forward Jack Gunston is out with a calf problem.
(Demons) Mark Neeld – He became accustomed to success at Collingwood, but Mark Neeld must be hanging on by a thread to his job with the Demons. You have to wonder where his head is at the moment, coaching a non-competitive team which is getting pumped on a weekly basis. Following this match against the AFL pacesetter, Melbourne comes up against Collingwood next week before getting a much needed break with the bye. It’s a brief respite, but one Neeld may not survive.
(Hawks) Jonathan Simpkin – He is clearly not among Hawthorn’s most important players, but in a line-up which was crying out for a couple of younger players to come through at the start of the season, Jonathan Simpkin is proving to be a diamond in the rough. He managed just four games of AFL footy after being in both Sydney and Geelong’s systems, but he has already matched that tally this season. Games like last week’s win over the Suns and this Sunday’s walkover against Melbourne are perfect opportunities to get some games in to the 25-year-old and add depth to the Hawks’ midfield. He can also play forward, but showed his ability in the middle with 33 touches against Gold Coast.
Melbourne just doesn’t have anywhere near the cattle to compete with a team like Hawthorn. At least Gold Coast has a match-winner in Ablett and some superb young talent, and it showed last week that if the Hawks are switched off then they can be pushed. The Demons just simply have anywhere enough players that have proven to be good enough at this level. Hawthorn will dictate what the margin is here, and the way they went last week, expect them to come out firing in the first half to avoid the wrath of coach Clarkson again. Hawks by 83 points
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