HAWTHORN has overcome distractions surrounding the Alastair Clarkson-Sam Mitchell coaching handover to produce a stunning 12-point upset of finals-bound Brisbane in Launceston.
After a tumultuous few weeks off the field, it was confirmed on Friday that master coach Clarkson will pass the reins to Mitchell at the end of the season - one year earlier than previously planned.
The Hawks entered Sunday's contest with questions marks over how they would respond to the shock news, and with only percentage separating them from last-placed North Melbourne.
But their intensity was at a far higher level than Brisbane's for three quarters and four unanswered goals in the opening term laid the platform for the 14.8 (92) to 12.8 (80) win at UTAS Stadium.
HAWKS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
The Lions charged home late, kicking eight goals to one in the final term, but ran out of time to erase a margin that had blown out to 53 points before three-quarter time.
They have now lost three of their last four matches in a worrying run of form just a month out from the finals.
Hawthorn caused a raft of front-half turnovers to create opportunities for their forwards and experienced duo Luke Breust (three goals) and Chad Wingard (two) were among those who cashed in.
Wingard (32 disposals) was outstanding all day, but Breust was helped off with a right knee injury during the third quarter after playing a key role in setting up the Hawks' match-winning lead.
Brisbane temporarily lost Jack Payne in the same incident as Breust fell across the defender's left leg on his way to ground.
Emerging Hawk Conor Nash excelled in the midfield, tallying 23 disposals and seven clearances.
Established stars Jaeger O'Meara and Tom Mitchell combined for 69 disposals and 14 clearances, while James Worpel was another strong contributor.
Brisbane produced their first goalless quarter of the season in an opening term when they coughed up a 20-5 inside-50 advantage the Hawks.
Daniel McStay (four goals) was the only Lions forward who looked dangerous as the likes of Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron wand Lincoln McCarthy went missing for most of the day.
Nakia Cockatoo celebrated his first on-field action in more than three years by kicking Brisbane's first goal of the match early in the second term.
The injury-prone former Geelong midfielder was an unused substitute for the Lions a week earlier and finished with eight disposals in his comeback.
Jarryd Lyons had 38 disposals and nine clearances as Brisbane's best afield.
The Lions will now travel to Perth for seven days in quarantine before taking on Fremantle in round 21, while Hawthorn are due to return to Launceston for a clash with Collingwood.
Clarko's still got it
It was a tumultuous week at the Hawthorn football club, with four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson announcing he would be stepping down at season’s end and handing over the reins to assistant coach – and club legend – Sam Mitchell a season earlier than anticipated. Clarkson cited differences in game plan as the main reason for fast-tracking the Hawks' succession plan, but on Saturday in Launceston, Clarko's approach still appeared to work. After the turmoil of the week, Hawthorn's players would be forgiven for seeming distracted and disorganised, but they looked determined and in control of the game from the word go. Just how much influence Mitchell currently has over Hawthorn's direction is not publicly known, but Clarkson is ostensibly still steering the ship and a win over a top-eight team, let alone a premiership fancy such as Brisbane, is no mean feat for a coach.
Cockatoo flies in first game back
It was a long time between games for Nakia Cockatoo, but the speedy utility enjoyed a strong return to senior level in his first game in 1212 days. After being named but unused as the medical sub last week, Cockatoo finally got some game time after last playing in round three, 2018. Booting Brisbane's first goal of the game was just reward after putting in the hard yards to return from a horror run with injury, which included two PCL injuries and hamstring issues. The former top 10 pick managed just 35 games in six years at Geelong before moving to Brisbane at the end of 2020. He showed glimpses of his highly regarded pace and attack on the ball, managing eight disposals in addition to his crucial goal.
Brisbane’s first goalless opening term
The Lions looked shellshocked early and could hardly get their hands on the footy as Hawthorn ran rampant through the middle. The Hawks' run and dare kept Brisbane goalless for the first time all year, with its quarter-time score of 0.1(1) its lowest first quarter score since they were kept goalless in round eight, 2016. The Lions only had five inside 50s in the first quarter, with an errant shot on goal from Hugh McCluggage producing their only score – a behind. Instead, the Lions' backline was under siege, with intercept defender Daniel Rich racking up 16 disposals in the first quarter alone as the Hawks launched an early assault on goal.
HAWTHORN 4.3 7.4 13.5 14.8(92)
BRISBANE 0.1 3.4 4.6 12.8(80)
Hawthorn: Breust 3, Wingard 2, Moore 2, O’Meara, Shiels, O’Brien, Phillips, Mitchell, Lewis, Worpel
Brisbane: McStay 4, Cockatoo, Lyons, Neale, Cameron, Bailey, Fullarton, Daniher, Zorko
Hawthorn: Wingard, O’Meara, Breust, Mitchell, Nash, Worpel
Brisbane: Lyons, McStay, Rich, McCluggage, Zorko
Hawthorn: Luke Breust (knee)
Hawthorn: Damon Greaves replaced Luke Breust (knee)
Brisbane: Keidean Coleman (unused)
Crowd: TBC at UTAS Stadium