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Five talking points: Hawthorn v North Melbourne

Highlights: Hawthorn v North Melbourne The Hawks and Kangaroos clash in round 21
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 13: Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks in action during the 2016 AFL Round 21 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 13, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Hawks' silky skills were on show with eight goals in the opening term

1. Brutal Hawks blitz listless Roos
With so much at stake and the track record of ill-feeling between these sides, most expected a ferocious opening, but the only thing brutal about it was Hawthorn's pummelling of North on the scoreboard. After having their pride dented by Melbourne and with top spot on the line, the Hawks shredded the Roos' defence in an 8.4 to 1.0 blitzkrieg – their best opening term for the season. The stats made for ugly reading for North fans, with Hawthorn dominating inside 50s (20-6), disposals (115-83) and still winning the tackle count (13-11). Despite the Kangas' fightback, it was just a bridge too far after their horrendous start.

Full match coverage and stats

2. Hawks one step closer to the minor premiership
One down, two to go. That will be the thinking at Hawthorn after the reigning premiers did enough to keep their one-game buffer at the top of the ladder. Tricky assignments against West Coast in Perth and Collingwood in round 23 await, but importantly the Hawks' destiny is still in their own hands. North was left lamenting a shocking first term, and after losing their eighth match from 11 games since a perfect 9-0 start to the season, the door to finals remains cracked ajar for Melbourne, Port Adelaide and St Kilda to sneak through. 

3. Boomer in strife?
When these sides last met in round 13, North Melbourne threw the kitchen sink at the Hawks, but couldn't finish the job off in front of goal in the most brutal game of the year. But it took until the third term for things to really kick-off in the rematch. Unsurprisingly, chief Roos instigator Michael Firrito went toe-to-toe in scuffles with Luke Hodge, and North will be hoping Brent Harvey doesn't have a case to answer with the Match Review Panel after a swinging arm collected Sam Mitchell in the throat after he disposed of the ball.

 

4. Tarrant states his All Australian case
After finally getting his body right, Robbie Tarrant has surged into All Australian contention this season and the gun defender couldn't have done any more to press his claims against the Hawks. Tarrant stood tall in the face of a fierce opening term from the Roos, and then hauled in five marks in the second quarter alone as North fought back. The 27-year-old finished with 19 disposals and 10 grabs, while keeping Jack Gunston to one goal in a big-hearted performance. Tarrant has some stiff competition for a key defensive post – most notably Alex Rance and Daniel Talia – in the All Australian team, but he deserves to be right in the mix. 

 

5. Gunston clone looks the goods
That the Hawks have managed to keep their historic premiership tilt on track while still handing a debut to seven players is a testament to the leadership at the club, and the latest first-gamer Ryan Burton looks a player. The athletic 191cm forward has overcome a horrific broken leg to make it to the AFL and showed why the Hawks gambled pick 19 on him. Burton was in the play instantly after a shocking Jack Ziebell turnover, setting up Brad Hill for the opening score, then snapped his first goal with his first kick and was swamped by his teammates for the customary celebrations. Burton, who ended up with 10 touches, has drawn comparisons to Jack Gunston and if he ends up anywhere near that level the Hawks have found a gem.