THE AFL'S Dad's Army has rocketed into the top four – but only after surviving North Melbourne's last-ditch attempt to pinch victory.
HAWKS GET HOME, JUST Full match coverage and stats
Hawthorn fielded 10 players aged 29 or older on Sunday night, but again defied the debate about its age demographics to hang on in an 8.10 (58) to 8.6 (54) thriller.
The Hawks dominated proceedings for most of the night and were 31 points clear midway through the final term, only for the Kangaroos to come alive.
Rhyce Shaw's men hadn't scored in the second half until then but, as with two brief patches in the first half, they made it count on the scoreboard when they had the momentum.
North Melbourne would have pulled off an improbable comeback if Jy Simpkin's close-range snap hadn't curled just inside the left goalpost in the final 30 seconds.
That would have been the Roos' fifth consecutive goal, after Tristan Xerri, Ben Brown – who had only three touches opposed to Ben McEvoy – Cam Zurhaar and Tarryn Thomas all kicked truly in a hurry.
Instead, Hawthorn was able to clear the ball after Simpkin's near miss to move to a 3-1 record on the season.
Chad Wingard (three goals for the second straight week among 18 disposals) continues to blossom in his second season in brown and gold, while Tom Mitchell was typically sharp in the clinches.
Wingard did a bit of everything – even almost setting up a second-quarter goal with a smother – and capped his stellar night by leaving Thomas in his wake on his way to slotting a third goal.
The game looked over at that stage.
Just as pivotal was ex-ruckman-turned-key defender McEvoy's nullifying role – with help from James Sicily – on North spearhead Ben Brown, who had one possession at three-quarter time.
Shaun Higgins was outstanding for the Kangaroos with a game-high 30 disposals, while Todd Goldstein won his ruck battle with Jon Ceglar and Robbie Tarrant stood up again in defence.
Ziebell battles multiple injuries
North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell, who wore heavy strapping on his right knee, looked proppy all night, especially after rolling his left ankle late in the first term. Ziebell was left limping in the aftermath but ploughed on as best he could before eventually calling it a night a fair way from the siren in the final term with a sore left hamstring. He ended the night with seven disposals and four turnovers and had minimal impact on the contest. Rhyce Shaw was unsure of the severity of Ziebell’s hamstring setback when he faced the media post-game but he must be in doubt for at least next week.
Cranky Clarko rues ill-discipline
Hawthorn deservedly shot 21 points ahead almost 20 minutes into the second quarter before a late flurry from North Melbourne got it back into the contest. Young Roo Curtis Taylor had just taken a terrific grab and kicked a goal, but the next one could have been avoided. Ex-Hawk Jed Anderson was preparing to pass the ball to a leading Ben Brown when Liam Shiels entered the protected zone and gifted North a 50m penalty and second straight major. Alastair Clarkson couldn't hide his fury. The four-time premiership coach infamously punched a hole in an MCG coaches' box eight years ago after his side conceded a goal from a turnover. Clarkson didn't quite reach that point, but to say he was displeased would be an understatement. After largely dominating the contest, Hawthorn went to half-time with just a nine-point edge.
What to do with the ruck?
The Hawks were so confident in Jon Ceglar's ability to be a No.1 ruckman that they re-signed him for three years and reinvented Ben McEvoy as a key defender. That turn of events saw Marc Pittonet request a trade to Carlton – and he's thriving since taking over as the Blues' top big man. Ceglar clearly got the better of Tiger Ivan Soldo last week, but either side of that performance he's had a difficult time against Geelong's Rhys Stanley and now North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein. Ceglar conceded almost as many free kicks as he won possessions to half-time on Sunday night (four to five). On the flipside, Goldstein had 10 disposals, five clearances and 17 hitouts at that point. Ceglar lifted early in the third quarter – and McEvoy was excellent all night on Ben Brown – but this is a situation that will continue to be monitored.
HAWTHORN 2.3 5.6 7.6 8.10 (58)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 4.3 4.3 8.6 (54)
Hawthorn: Wingard 3, Breust, O'Brien, Burgoyne, Lewis, Shiels
North Melbourne: Simpkin, Hall, Taylor, Anderson, Xerri, Brown, Zurhaar, Thomas
Hawthorn: Wingard, Mitchell, McEvoy, Shiels, Sicily, Worpel
North Melbourne: Higgins, Goldstein, Tarrant, Anderson, Polec
Hawthorn: Patton (foot) replaced in selected side by Lewis
North Melbourne: Cunnington (back) replaced in selected side by Ahern, Ziebell (left hamstring)