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Five talking points: Hawthorn v West Coast

Highlights: Hawthorn v West Coast The Hawks and Eagles clash in round five
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 23:  Cyril Rioli of the Hawks compete for the ball over Tom Barrass of the Eagles (L) and Shannon Hurn of the Eagles during the round five AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the West Coast Eagles at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images/AFL Media)
Cyril Rioli was back to his high-leaping, quick-thinking best against the Eagles

1. The tag the Eagles can't lose
The 'flat-track bully' line does not sit well with West Coast coach Adam Simpson, who defends his players whenever it is levelled at them. But the club's recent record at the MCG cannot be ignored and Sunday's loss made it five losses in six matches at the venue, stretching back to the 2015 Grand Final. That loss, also against the Hawks, was fresh in the mind on Sunday as Hawthorn played with a swagger and aggression not seen this season. AFL great Wayne Carey declared this week it was time for the Eagles to acknowledge their shortcomings away from home and particularly at the MCG. Sunday's result, against the winless Hawks, should bring the issue to the fore internally, if it isn't already there. Unfortunately for the Eagles, it was their last chance at the MCG until finals. 

Full match coverage and stats

2. Cyril finds his sparkle 
The Norm Smith medallist's willingness to 'nutmeg' opponent Liam Duggan in the second quarter said it all. After a four-game form slump, Cyril Rioli had his mojo back and the Eagles were his unfortunate victims. For the first quarter-and-a-half the Sherrin just wouldn't bobble his way, at one stage bouncing backwards and over his head as he was running towards an open goal. But Rioli persisted and the wheel turned in a big way. His trademark taps to the advantage of teammates were back, his chase downs were outstanding, and he flew for a thrilling pack mark in the final term. His most audacious play of the day? Late in the second term he was hemmed in on the boundary by Duggan and he decided to handball through the midfielder's legs and run around him. It should have worked, but the umpire chose not to pay a blatant free kick against Duggan, who grabbed him without the ball. It was an exhilarating return to form.   

WATCH: Sizzling Cyril puts on a show

3. These are the Hawks we remember
It's been a strange feeling to see a champion team fall so far in one month of football, but order was restored, at least for one afternoon, on Sunday. The defenders were the stars in the Hawks' first win for the season. Josh Gibson timed his leaps and was impenetrable with his spoils, Ben Stratton positioned intelligently, and Luke Hodge played the quarterback role he has executed so brilliantly in the past. The third quarter was the backline's masterpiece. They were under the pump, with West Coast going inside 50 19 times to 11, but they only conceded 2.3. Every forward entry was a struggle for the Eagles, and the visitors' final score of 11.9 (75) was the lowest the Hawks have conceded all season.         

 

4. Priddis breaks St Lenny's record
St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes took the all-time tackling record from Jude Bolton on August 31, 2014, in his last AFL game, and on Sunday he lost it to Matt Priddis. Priddis laid eight tackles in the first half, including his record-breaking 1497th. It is a remarkable achievement from a player who made a late start to his AFL career after being overlooked in four drafts. While Hayes set his record in 296 games (with an average of 5.05 tackles a game), Priddis set the new mark in his 224th game with an average of 6.69, which is also well above Bolton's rate of 5.48 a game. The Brownlow medallist finished with 11 tackles and the game's new tackle king won't be slowing down any time soon.  

5. Late change bites Eagles
West Coast made a bold change 90 minutes before the bounce, replacing ruckman Jonathan Giles with midfielder Dom Sheed, leaving Nathan Vardy to carry the ruck. It was a change made for team balance, with Adam Simpson keen to see how his team performed with a more mobile set-up, using Jeremy McGovern as back-up. The smaller ruck pairing had no answer for Ben McEvoy, both at stoppages and around the ground, with the Hawks big man finishing with 43 hit-outs and seven marks (four contested). "We tried something different and we're looking at trying to be a little bit more flexible … playing two distinct ruckman has its advantages and disadvantages," Simpson said after the game. "We tried something today … I don't think it was the reason why we got 'pantsed'."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs