Some sports video games allow the user to build a player from scratch using customisable dimensions. It’s the type of feature which tempts those with the joystick to create physical freaks.
Noah Balta is the type of athlete you’d create if given carte blanche. Listed at 194 centimetres and 100 kilograms, Balta moves like a man 20 centimetres shorter and 20 kilograms lighter. He is a phenomenal athlete, and fast becoming a very good footballer. Helped by a first half injury to Hawks big man Ben McEvoy (ankle), Balta played a spellbinding second half on Sunday. His marking was excellent, he ran down Hawks big man Jonathon Ceglar, and he went on a barnstorming run which ended in a goal for Jason Castagna. It was an incredibly eye-catching showing.
The battle of the big men was intriguing. Ceglar started the game brilliantly, taking a string of contested marks in the first quarter, but Ivan Soldo wasn’t disgraced in just his second senior game since the start of last season. Mitchell Lewis — the man keeping Jarryd Roughead out of the Hawthorn side — also had his moments but left the field during the third quarter to be checked for concussion, and didn’t return, leaving the Hawks further exposed in the air. James Frawley had also been withdrawn before the game because of hamstring tightness — replaced by Conor Glass — denying Hawthorn an experienced key position player in defence.
Not all fun and James
Off the field, Tom Lynch is about as mild-mannered as they come. The consensus in football circles is that he’s an affable, nice guy. Of course he’s considerably more aggressive on the field, but it still takes a bit to rile the former Gold Coast co-captain. Enter James Sicily. No shrinking violet when in the middle of the MCG, Sicily got under Lynch’s skin during an enthralling contest on Sunday.
Lynch kicked a second term major after being the beneficiary of a 50-metre penalty, but was also responsible for coughing up a major after an off-the-ball hit to Sicily’s chest brought the Hawk to ground. The incident could attract match review attention. The pair continued to tangle throughout the afternoon, with Sicily booed by the Richmond cheer squad at the Punt Road End as he kicked in early in the last quarter.
Tim O’Brien was given the No.23 jumper at Hawthorn after the departure of Lance Franklin. That was five and ½ years ago, and the South Australian still hasn’t cemented his place in the Hawks’ line-up, having been tried at either end of the ground.
In his seventh season on the Hawthorn list, O’Brien finally made it to 50 senior games on Sunday, and marked the occasion with a solid display in defence. The highlight came with a rundown tackle of diminutive Tiger Liam Baker early in the second term. Baker was in the clear approaching his forward 50 after getting on the end of a long roost from Balta, with O’Brien’s effort potentially saving a goal.
3.2 6.6 11.7 14.11 (95)
2.5 3.8 6.9 8.11 (59)
GOALS — Richmond: Caddy 3, Lynch 3, Martin 2, Higgins, Castagna, McIntosh, Baker, Balta, Vlastuin.
Hawthorn: Breust 3, Scully 2, Lewis, Gunston, Moore.
BEST — Richmond: Martin, Balta, Ellis, Edwards, Prestia, Vlastuin, Astbury.
Hawthorn: Henderson, Worpel, O’Meara, Ceglar, Burgoyne.
INJURIES — Richmond: Nil
Hawthorn: Frawley (hamstring tightness) replaced in selection side by Glass, McEvoy (right ankle), Lewis (concussion), Breust (left leg)
UMPIRES: Ryan, Stephens, O’Gorman.
CROWD: 64,936 at MCG.
D. Martin (Richmond) 8
N. Balta (Richmond) 7
B. Ellis (Richmond) 7
S. Edwards (Richmond) 7
D. Prestia (Richmond) 7
Daniel is an Age sports reporter.