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Veterans star as Hawks outlast, outclass Kangaroos

Nick Bowen  March 12, 2016 9:41 PM

Highlights: Hawks v Kangaroos Hawthorn and North Melbourne clash in the NAB Challenge
AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Hawthorn v North Melbourne

Hawk skipper Luke Hodge set the early standard before being rested in the second half

HAWTHORN has fine-tuned its 'four-peat' preparations with an impressive 45-point win over North Melbourne on Saturday night, a victory that was set up by a vintage third quarter and a 45-possession haul by evergreen midfielder Sam Mitchell.

North led the Hawks by seven points at the main break after a hard-fought first half at Etihad Stadium, but the reigning premiers found another gear in the third term, ramming on seven goals – including two supergoals – to the Roos' two to set up a 2.16.11 (125) to 0.12.8 (80) victory. 

Mitchell toyed with the Roos at times through the midfield despite the attention of North tagger Ben Jacobs, while fellow veteran Luke Hodge was just as effective in the first half (17 disposals and one goal) before the Hawks took the luxury of resting him for the final two quarters.

Click here for full match details and stats

The Roos took the game right up to the Hawks in the first half and would have been buoyed by the continued good form of Daniel Wells (a team-high 24 possessions and one goal) in his return from two injury-plagued seasons.

However, the Roos struggled to move the ball fluently when Hawthorn upped its pressure in the second half, regularly turning the ball over by foot.

Todd Goldstein sent a scare through North supporters late in the second term, when he went to the interchange bench and received attention from trainers, who seemed to be assessing his lower right leg.

But the 2015 All Australian ruckman played out the remainder of the game and finished with 13 possessions, 28 hitouts and one goal to be one of North's best players.

Hawks assistant coach Cameron Bruce, who was in charge of the coach's box on Saturday night, said the game had rounded Hawthorn's pre-season preparation off nicely.

"Certainly we got out of it what we wanted from a game-time point-of-view, getting exposure to a really competitive game with our senior players (and) with guys that are looking for an opportunity to cement a spot in the side," Bruce said.

"We were challenged throughout that first half … those little challenges that happened throughout the game was great preparation."

But Bruce said the Hawks coaching staff had yet to settle on their forward-line structure for round one.

"There's guys who have put their hands up that we've seen exciting things from," he said.

"I mentioned the word synergy yesterday, but hopefully that comes together and we're potent without 'Roughy' there."

Hawk forward James Sicily had an opportunity to press his case for a round one berth in the absence of injured vice-captain Jarryd Roughead.

Look away now Lindsay Thomas 󾌯 #NABChallenge

Posted by AFL on Saturday, 12 March 2016

With one of the other possible Roughead replacements Tim O'Brien overlooked for Saturday night's game, Sicily kicked twogoals, but the contested marking of ruckmen Jonathon Ceglar (two goals) and Ben McEvoy (one) against the Roos underlined the fact the Hawks aren't short of options to fill the hole left by Roughead.

Luke Breust kicked four goals for Hawthorn, while Josh Gibson racked up 31 possessions in the back half.

Emerging Hawks midfielder Billy Hartung received treatment after copping a knock to his left knee early in the second quarter. Hartung played out the quarter, but spent nearly all of the second half on the bench seemingly as a precaution.

North coach Brad Scott said his team would have to tidy up its ball use ahead of round one. 

"The obvious thing from an improvement perspective is just far too many blatant turnovers, particularly where they hurt you in your back half," Scott said. 

"They're things that are not acceptable and we'll have a good look at the reasons why, but I know that you don't lose your skill level from one week to the next. 

"That was probably the main difference between the two sides. We were OK in the clearance area, but we got beaten in the contest I thought and then beaten on the spread.

Drew Petrie was one of North's best players, kicking a team-high three goals before being rested in the final term.

North skipper Andrew Swallow battled hard all night at the stoppages, while Jamie Macmillan kept his composure in defence despite the Hawks' dominance.

Luke Hodge and Jonathon Ceglar celebrate a goal on Saturday night.  Picture: AFL Media

WHAT WE LEARNED
Hawthorn: It's been an experimental Hawks' forward line minus Jarryd Roughead during the NAB Challenge, but with Jack Gunston back we got our best look at what Alastair Clarkson is thinking - and Luke Hodge could be central to his plans. The skipper was stationed up forward for lengthy periods in the first half and Hodge's aerial ability makes him a difficult match-up, not to mention the obvious leadership he will bring to the attack. 

North Melbourne: The Roos' best line-up looks settled and, importantly, set to be fully fit leading into a huge round one clash against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium. Daniel Wells was typically slick in his second game back, while Shaun Higgins (knee) and Robbie Tarrant (back) should be fine to take on the Crows. North hasn't won a season-opener in six attempts under Brad Scott, but there seems no better time for the Kangas to make amends.

NEW FACES
Hawthorn: Crafty half-forward Blake Hardwick spent the first half on the bench but got a run immediately after the long break and presented at the ball strongly. Hardwick confidently kicked a late set shot goal and a 2016 debut seems a realistic target for the draftee. 

North Melbourne: It didn't take long for Jed Anderson to face his old club for the first time, a match the classy youngster would no doubt be happy to have out the way. Anderson produced some cameo efforts, dumped good mate Bradley Hill in the third quarter and was lively forward of centre.

NEXT UP It's time for the real deal, with the Roos set to host Adelaide at Etihad Stadium in search of their first round one win in their seventh season under Brad Scott. Hawthorn has a lengthy 16-day break before an Easter Monday blockbuster against a rejuvenated Geelong at the MCG.



HAWTHORN                   0.4.2   0.7.5    2.13.7    2.16.11 (125)
NORTH MELBOURNE   0.6.3   0.8.6    0.10.7     0.12.8 (80) 

NAB SUPERGOALS
Hawthorn: Duryea, Schoenmakers
North Melbourne: NIl

GOALS
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Sicily 2, Gunston 2, Ceglar 2, Hodge, Puopolo, Hartung, Rioli, Hardwick, McEvoy
North Melbourne: Petrie 3, Thomas, Ziebell, Garner, Brown, Cunnington, Dal Santo, Wright, Goldstein, Wells 

BEST 
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Gibson, Shiels, Smith, Breust, Ceglar, Hodge
North Melbourne: Wells, Goldstein, Petrie, Ziebell, Atley, Dal Santo, 

INJURIES
Hawthorn: Hartung (knee), Shiels (wrist), Duryea (hip)
North Melbourne: Nil  

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Findlay, Jeffery, Mollison, Brown

Official crowd: 8,894 at Etihad Stadium