HAWTHORN has snapped a four-game losing skid against Brisbane, recovering from a narrow quarter-time deficit to open the season with a 28-point victory at the MCG.
News filtered through during the match that the AFL season was on hold until at least May 31 but the Hawks will at least be pleased with their 14.6 (90) to 9.8 (62) triumph on Sunday.
Chad Wingard (20 disposals) picked up where he left off last year with an impressive midfield display, and Tom Mitchell (25, nine clearances) was his usual ball magnet self in his first game since winning the 2018 Brownlow Medal.
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Shaun Burgoyne also provided plenty of enjoyment for Hawthorn fans, booting three typically classy goals and setting up recruit Jon Patton for his maiden goal for the club.
Luke Breust and Wingard chipped in with three majors apiece as the Hawks ran away with the contest with a four-goal-to-two final term.
The teams broke even in the centre, where Lion Lachie Neale (26, eight clearances) dominated early, but Hawthorn's ball movement thrived from half-back through Jack Gunston and James Sicily.
Apart from Neale for Brisbane, defender Harris Andrews kept Patton to one goal and had 13 intercept possessions, while Eric Hipwood (three goals) was a livewire in attack.
Turning back the clock
Shaun Burgoyne is the oldest player in the AFL but you wouldn't have known it on Sunday. He benefited from a Ricky Henderson free kick after his teammate had to leave the ground but he bent his kick back beautifully for the first of his three goals from an acute angle. The 37-year-old's second came via a sideways pass inside 50 from Patton, then slipped a Marcus Adams tackle to dribble through his third. Burgoyne wasn't done, returning the favour for Patton to kick his first major in brown and gold with a perfect centring pass.
Keeping the news quiet
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced at half-time of the game the season was on hold until at least May 31 because of the coronavirus outbreak. As we well know by now, players' mobile phones are confiscated during matches, so both Hawthorn and Brisbane officials had the option of keeping the season's suspension a secret until game's end – and that's exactly what they did.
The new Rance?
Brisbane defender Harris Andrews took advantage of Alex Rance's season-ending knee injury to usurp him as full-back in the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team last year. Rance has since retired, leaving Andrews as the game's premier defender, although he might have challenged for that status regardless. He was outstanding again on Sunday, continually repelling the Hawks and ensuring ex-Giant Jon Patton had minimal impact on the contest. Andrews' spoiling has always been elite but his increased confidence in going for marks is what has elevated him.
Gunston down back
Jack Gunston is best known as an All-Australian forward but he's also been a spare-parts man for coach Alastair Clarkson, particularly since the 2017 season. On Sunday, with Blake Hardwick and Jarman Impey sidelined, Gunston again went into defence to utilise his sweet kicking skills. Predictably, the 28-year-old made an impact and already had 10 possessions and four rebound 50s by half-time. Gunston had pre-Christmas ankle surgery but a strong training block in the past fortnight proved he was right to go.
Clash with old side on hold
Four-time premiership Hawk Grant Birchall opted to exercise his free agency rights last year to seek a fresh start with Brisbane. Birchall was largely injury free for his first 11 seasons but a recurring PCL injury in his right knee sidelined him for most of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, then soft-tissue setbacks became a problem in 2019. The appeal of joining the Lions was obvious, given their medical team has had great success rehabilitating injured footballers – the latest being former Cat Lincoln McCarthy.
Hawthorn: Mitchell and Henderson both came from the field in the opening quarter – the latter after a sloppy high hit from Lion Marcus Adams – to be medically examined but returned soon after and played the game out.
Brisbane: Stefan Martin had his right knee looked at during the third quarter and didn't return, Chris Fagan confirming after the game the ruckman had suffered a PCL injury and the 33-year-old is "likely to miss quite a few weeks" - not as much of a concern as it could be considering the state of the game. Charlie Cameron's day also ended early in the final term with a toe issue. The Lions lost ex-Hawk Grant Birchall (hamstring soreness) before the game, with teenage midfielder Deven Robertson replacing him for his AFL debut after being the No.22 draft pick last year.
Brisbane was supposed to host North Melbourne at the Gabba next Saturday night but the season is officially on hold until at least May 31. Hawthorn's next opponent was going to be Fremantle on Sunday.
HAWTHORN 3.1 6.2 10.2 14.6 (90)
BRISBANE 3.3 4.5 7.7 9.8 (62)
Hawthorn: Burgoyne 3, Breust 3, Wingard 3, Smith, Hanrahan, O'Brien, Patton, Scully
Brisbane: Hipwood 3, McStay 2, Cameron 2, Neale, Rayner
Hawthorn: Wingard, Mitchell, Burgoyne, O'Meara, Sicily, Stratton
Brisbane: Neale, Andrews, Hipwood, Robinson, Rich
Brisbane: Martin (right knee), Cameron (toe), Birchall (hamstring soreness) replaced in selected side by Robertson
Umpires: Rosebury, Deboy, Wallace