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Hawks' 12th flag could be their best

Milestone: Jarryd Roughead is chaired off the ground after his 200th match.

Milestone: Jarryd Roughead is chaired off the ground after his 200th match. Photo: Getty Images

It goes without saying that Hawthorn is the most successful club of the past 50 years, 10 of its 11 premierships won since 1971, a strike rate of one flag every 4.3 seasons. That's phenomenal consistency over a sustained period.

Which of those flags has been the most satisfying is subjective. Many Hawthorn people would argue 1989, the side that delivered back-to-back premierships to the club for the first time. Others would contend the unexpected triumph of 2008 with the AFL’s youngest list.

Which  represents the Hawks’ greatest achievement is another question and another matter of opinion. But the closer this season inches towards its climax, the more the evidence mounts that if they earn consecutive premierships a second time, it might actually be that of 2014.

The wrap.

The wrap.

The Hawks have had better teams than their current model, certainly a few more star-studded. But it’s arguable that any have had to face the sort of odds the club has battled this season through a toll of injuries and suspensions that have taken, at some stage, virtually every key player, and, at one stage, even its coach Alastair Clarkson.

Saturday night’s epic win over Sydney - in close to the best game we’ve seen this year - was a timely reminder of just how good the Hawks. Not surprisingly, it was a performance delivered with one of their strongest line-ups of the season. And even then, a win still achieved without Brian Lake, Cyril Rioli and Brad Sewell.

But that quality of absentee has just been par for the course for Hawthorn in 2014, virtually every game contested without at least one and usually more of their most important players.

That the Hawks, for all that, remain less than one per cent off top spot on the ladder having dropped just four games, all to teams in the top six, says pretty conclusively before we even reach September that this is the most even combination they have had at their disposal.

How many of their predecessors, not to mention  contemporary rivals, would have coped this well with so many casualties?

If that sounds hyperbolic, consider the following. The top four in Hawthorn’s best and fairest last year were Josh Gibson, Jarryd Roughead, Sam Mitchell and Ben Stratton. That quartet on Saturday night played as a group for just the third time this season.

If you throw Lake, a Norm Smith medallist, into that mix as well, it’s just one game together. Add Rioli and Sewell and you have a list of seven players who’d be among the first 10 picked at virtually any club. Yet only Roughead of that group has played more than 11 games this season, and he and Rioli are the only ones even in double figures.

Hawthorn just finds ways to cope. Against Sydney, Lake’s absence loomed as particularly damaging, and there were times in the first half when Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett threatened to run amok.

Yet Gibson’s return to the line-up forced Franklin to work hard for every touch. Ryan Schoenmakers at least provided a strong contest against Tippett.

And so hard did Hawthorn’s midfield work that in the end, no matter how dangerous they looked, Franklin and Tippett simply couldn’t find enough opportunity. The Swans average 56.3 inside-50 entries a game and 9.5 more than their opposition. Against the Hawks it was 49 and six fewer.

The stars all stood up on Saturday night, Roughead, Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge all pivotal. But not necessarily any more important than the consistently underrated Liam Shiels, who managed to curb the effectiveness of Sydney’s Josh Kennedy, nor Jonathan Simpkin’s job as a defensive forward on critical Swans rebounder Nick Malceski.

The hard Hawthorn midfield bodies did the trick even without Sewell, and Rioli’s run and X-factor was more than adequately compensated by a great game from Isaac Smith. A continuation of what’s happened all season.

In the ruck, Jonathon Ceglar has in turn kept more senior men Ben McEvoy and now David Hale out of the line-up. Angus Litherland has slotted in beautifully off half-back. Will Langford made an important contribution early in the season, and has again forced his way into the 22. As Matt Spangher was holding down a key defensive role until injuring his ankle.

Some of those names will be stiff indeed to be dropped or passed over come the returns of  Lake, Rioli and Sewell, all of whom will be back with one or two home-and-away games to spare. But more than most seasons, they will be able to console themselves in having played a crucial part in their team’s fortunes.

Back-to-back premierships in the AFL era given the intensity of and toll taken by the competition are significant indeed, more than a decade having now passed since Brisbane’s  hat-trick.

A Hawthorn outfit that delivered that prize for only a second time in the club’s history, whatever the circumstances, would rightly earn a prominent place in AFL history. But to do so given the adversity the Hawks have been up against  would make them, even by a successful club’s lofty standards, a very special group indeed.

And while I'm at it ...


Has a side in recent memory with as much on the line played as poor a first quarter as Gold Coast did on Saturday?

If the complete domination of Brisbane wasn’t obvious enough, the statistics from a dire 30 minutes for the Suns had to be seen to be believed. And even then, looked at again to make sure there hadn’t been a printing error.

Try these on for size. Disposals: 126-36. Marks: 22-1. Contested possession: 50-21. Clearances 18-6. Inside 50s: 23-4. They’re the sort of numbers you’d expect to see in a lopsided under 12s game, not the AFL. Little wonder Suns’ coach Guy McKenna was still too angry to talk to his players when he conducted his post-game media conference.

If Gold Coast was hoping to finally shrug off the “no Ablett, no Suns” talk, it couldn’t have gone about doing so any worse than the lacklustre effort against the Bulldogs, and Saturday’s failure to turn up at all. And with games still to come against an improved Carlton, Port Adelaide and Essendon, the sun is rapidly setting on its hopes of a first finals appearance.


Brisbane, in contrast to the Suns, produced its best performance of the season, one that not only highlighted the quality of its gun midfielders Tom Rockliff and Pearce Hanley, but just how many relatively raw Lions continue to make good progress, Jack Crisp, in his first game of the season, another good example.

No fewer than 14 of the Lions’ 22 on Saturday had played 58 games or fewer, including those who now pass for senior faces, such as Dayne Zorko, Rohan Bewick, Ryan Harwood and Ryan Lester.

It’s youth on a mass scale, and few of those who’ve been tried haven’t shown some very positive signs under first-year coach Justin Leppitsch. Indeed, Brisbane, for a side still in the bottom four, and with half as many wins as last year, has plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.

As have the other teams anchored near the foot of the ladder. Even for the also-rans, 2014 will finish with at least something over which to enthuse.


It’s had plenty of air-time already as an issue, but if any weekend has driven home how far AFL scheduling has missed the mark in 2014, surely it’s the last two in the supposed heartland of the competition.

Sure there’s fewer games on offer in a split round, but not only has Melbourne hosted just four games across two Saturdays and two Sundays, three of them have come in the “deadest” time-slot of all, that of 4.40pm, neither a day game nor night, and as good as an open invitation to stay home and watch on TV.

Saturday night’s Hawthorn-Sydney classic in a now-traditional 7.40pm setting drew the sort of crowd becoming increasingly scarce in these parts. What a shame the next bit of action came nearly 24 hours later with too many fans already having tuned out again.

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AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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