Too tall, too old, too good: Hawks defy critics
IT has been the most picked-on positional swap of the year.
And if he had listened to talk back radio throughout the week, Hawthorn ruckman Ben McEvoy would have felt like his days in a new key defensive role were numbered.
But not for the first time, coach Alastair Clarkson was the one who came up trumps in a thumping 32-point win over Richmond at the MCG last night.
For all the chat about being too tall and too slow in the back half, Clarkson's faith in McEvoy was justified as the lumbering giant was almost impassable across half back last night.
He took five intercept marks in the first half to completely deny Richmond's lethal mosquito fleet any opportunity to wreak havoc with their speed at ground level.
And while Richmond sorely missed Dustin Martin's power in the forward half, it was McEvoy who helped shut out Tom Lynch to keep the reigning premier to only five goals.
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Hawthorn's midfield went from fourth-rate to first class in five days.
The same unit which was pummelled "inside and out" by the Cats turned on a blinder last night to punch a big hole in Richmond's premiership confidence.
While ruckman Jon Ceglar was steady for the Hawks, Jaeger O'Meara was clean as a whistle and Isaac Smith wound back the clock on the wing to steer the Hawks to victory.
And Smith's long goal from 50m in the second term after a fumble down the other end cost the Hawks a goal showcased his running power after a 13-possession first term.
Hawthorn slotted three goals from clearances to Richmond's none for the game.
It was not a malicious hit.
But you could clearly sense the frustration when spearhead Jack Riewoldt smacked his forearm into James Sicily's ribs in a second-quarter tangle.
At that point, Richmond's forwards were struggling to get any decent supply from the midfield and Riewoldt lashed out his man, knowing the Tigers have a steep mountain to climb to return to the top-four this week.
While the match review panel will look at it, a 50m penalty seemed right.
But the big question is clear, where has the Tigers' hunger gone?
A nine-tackle first half was one of their most toothless performances in three years.
This was a statement from Hawthorn's veterans.
After fielding the equal oldest side in AFL-VFL history last week, it was clear the Hawks' pride had been dented.
But their commitment to a Clarkson style has not wavered.
This Hawthorn team is not the one which likes to control the play and kick short as much as it used to in its premiership heydays.
Rather, there are shades of Richmond in how the 2020 Hawks like to play on from marks and surge the ball forward, overwhelming the Tigers at their own strategy last night.
RICHMOND 0.1 2.1 3.3 5.9 (39)
HAWTHORN 5.3 7.3 10.5 11.5 (71)
Richmond: Castagna 2, Bolton, Edwards, Lynch
Hawthorn: Wingard 3, Gunston 2, Breust, Ceglar, O'Brien, O'Meara, Patton, Smith
JAY CLARK'S BEST
Hawks: Smith, O'Meara, Sicily, Wingard, McEvoy.
Tigers: Houli, Grimes, Vlastuin, Astbury, Short.
Hawks: Henderson (leg), Puopolo (calf)
Originally published as Too tall, too old, too good: Hawks defy critics