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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 ...

SUNS STINK IT UP

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.

BRIGHT TIMES AHEAD FOR BRISBANE

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.

FIXTURING FAILS

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.

Related Coverage

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs STK 13:10G
COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
View all
 
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