Much has been said about the Swans midfield depth, or lack thereof this season, with what seemed to be terminal damage to the Swans’ on-ball brigade in terms of form and injury over the second half of the season.
As the Swans appeared to “rob Peter to pay Paul”, trying to prop up a damaged or inexperienced forward line with Parker and Heeney, while hoping to get by with lesser knowns in Dan Robinson, Ben Ronke and Tom Papley as onballers, there’s been one constant all season - my boy George
Now, before you have flashbacks to 1980’s music videos with Bowie-esque cross dressing, psychedelic agents, crazy hairstyles, or even humming that infernal song from “The Wedding Singer” over and over again, I said “My Boy” first, not “Boy George”.
While guys like be Ben Jacobs have been praised as having an impact in the midfield for North Melbourne, Hewett has rarely been celebrated outside the red and white. The Swans know how good he is, which is why a relatively unknown player can finish in the top five in the clubs’ best and fairest award in 2017, behind recognised superstars in Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin and defender Jake Lloyd (who tied with Franklin for second place).
Unlike last season, where the Swans turned around their disastrous 0-6 start to the season, the Swans have seriously struggled after the bye, despite clinching second place at the end of round 13. Critical to the sides’ early success was the role George Hewett played. He went about his business against some of the biggest names in the game, taking several massive scalps along the way. Unassuming, he quietly toils away and before you know it, he’s well on top - Horse’s kind of footballer.
He does this while not only curbing his opponents influence but winning his own contested ball, and lays enough tackles to have an impact. He is often the leading clearance winner for the Swans, filling in the hole left by Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy’s recent form issues.
Take last week for example. A must win game against the top-of-the-table Collingwood, George matched-up on both Scott Pendlebury and Steel Sidebottom; both competent inside midfielders, especially Sidebottom, who averages just on 30 disposals per game and is often the barometer for Collingwood’s midfield.
Not only did George keep both Pendlebury and Sidebottom to a single clearance between them for the first three quarters of the match, when they average close to 10 combined per game, Pendlebury was kept below his normal disposal average by 6, and Sidebottom a whopping 11. At the same time, Hewett gathered 25 disposals, 16 contested at 80 percent, and had 10 clearances of his own by the end of the game, the highest of any Swan.
This week Longmire set him on Clayton Oliver, the leading clearance and disposal winner for Melbourne. Hewett dominated Oliver, restricting him to just nine disposals at half time. Oliver finally broke the tag in the last quarter after spending significant time at full forward, but by then, they Demons were already 28-points down.
Despite Oliver picking up 12 of his 27 disposals in the last quarter, with the Swans out on their legs having been down to two players on the bench since quarter time, Hewett finished with 24 disposals at 83 percent, 5 tackles and 8 clearances.
It’s no surprise that the period of Swans dominance between quarter time and three-quarter time coincided with Hewett’s ascendency in the midfield, especially over Oliver.
Speaking of Tom Mitchell, in round 8 when Ben Ronke stunned the AFL world with an incredible 7-goal match against the Hawks, the unsung hero of that game was again Georgie Hewett, taking on the implacable Tom Mitchell, who leads the competition in pretty much every metric for an on-baller. In a game where Sydney were undermanned and under gunned more than usual, matching it with the Hawks star on-baller was a vital piece in the road to victory.
Mitchell’s average for 2018 are reaching Greg William’s levels of ridiculousness, with an average of 36.5 disposals with 16 contested per match, along with 8 clearances and 475 meters gained. It should come as no surprise then – while Sicily was getting Ronke’d all over in the forward half – that Mitchell was getting by George’d in the centre (this analogy would be better if he was named Roger!), where “Titch” was kept to 20 disposal’s, 12 contested, 7 clearances 240 meters gained with Hewett matching in him in every category except clearances (3).
When the two face again at the SCG in a fortnight’s time, George will need to do it all over again if the Swans are going to be any chance to remain in finals contention, or the outside chance of a top-4 finish.
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