HAWTHORN sharpshooter Luke Breust says the Hawks are aware their conversion and field kicking isn't up to the sublime standard of recent seasons but expects both will improve in the second half of the season.
Breust said the Hawks' uncharacteristic inaccuracy at times this season was merely cyclical and certainly not an area of great concern.
This year Hawthorn has converted 53.4 per cent of their scoring shots, compared with a combined 57.6 per cent over their past two premiership-winning seasons.
The difference isn't massive but has the potential to prove significant - particularly given the reigning premier's long-held belief that accurate kicking in close games could be the difference between success and failure.
Breust himself, one of the best finishers in the game, has also slipped below his lofty standards, which, it must be said, were perhaps unsustainable. After last year tallying 57.12 (87.2 per cent), including a phenomenal 29 goals without a behind (to share a record with Hall of Fame Legend Tony Lockett), Breust's 10 games this season have netted 23.14 (62.2 per cent).
He is not alone. Jack Gunston tallied 104.44 (70.3 per cent) in his previous two seasons and this year has 22.15 (59.5); Cyril Rioli last year kicked 20.8 (71.4) and has now blazed 13.12 (52 per cent).
However, little has changed with spearhead Jarryd Roughead, who over the previous two years snared 147.77 (65.6 per cent) and now has 23.13 (63.9 per cent).
In their 63-point win over St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Hawks endured some early frustration when, to the 20-minute mark of the second quarter, they had blazed 5.10, missing several opportunities they would normally devour, from both set shots and others in general play.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson isn't overly fazed by the situation, telling reporters post-match: "We were a bit scratchy early but we'll take 20.12 any day of the week."
Breust said the Hawks had identified that their kicking, both at goal and in general play, had dropped off slightly.
"We always work hard on our goalkicking and we know how crucial a factor it can be in tight games, especially finals, so we'll continue to work hard on it and hopefully as the season progresses we'll improve that," Breust told AFL.com.au.
"I think with our set shots, even though we have missed a few, our accuracy is still reasonable, so that's a good sign.
"I think it's just the law of averages. Myself, I've had inaccurate years and accurate ones – it can ebb and flow. When that little monkey jumps on your back you've got to be able to shake him off.
"And with our field kicking, I think other sides are putting more pressure on us than last year and they're coming out and hunting us a bit more, and we're kicking under more heat."
The Hawks' lack of their usual sharpness had been one of the factors in their inconsistent start to the season, Breust said.
"The way we've gone about the first 10 rounds has been very up and down, so to string two in a row together before the bye to go 6-4 is pretty pleasing," he said.
"We're building. We've identified things in our game that need improvement, and we got a few right tonight, but there is a lot we can still improve on.
"(St Kilda) got a lot of uncontested marks tonight and really controlled the ball, and when we're playing our best footy, teams just don't do that to us."