HAWTHORN was missing star forwards Jack Gunston and Chad Wingard, but the Hawks found the firepower to notch a comeback win over the Western Bulldogs in Wednesday's practice game.
The Hawks trailed at every change in the first official hit-out of the pre-season, but struck back in the final term to run over the top of the Bulldogs by 15 points.
The 15.7 (97) to 12.10 (82) win should be a fillip for the Hawks as they aim to rise from last year's 15th position on the ladder, overcoming the more experienced premiership fancy at Whitten Oval.
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After being outscored four goals to one in the first term, Hawthorn's group of forwards turned the tables to offer plenty of options for coach Alastair Clarkson heading into round one. Tim O'Brien, Luke Breust and Ollie Hanrahan all booted three goals, while Mitch Lewis was also impressive with two majors.
The Bulldogs would have been buoyed by the pairing of recruit Stef Martin and fellow ruckman Tim English (pictured). The athletic former Lion, who cost the Dogs little in last year's Trade Period, showed his wares around the ground and also allowed English to drift forward, where he was a threat in the air and kicked two goals.
After his failed bid to be traded to Essendon last year for more midfield time, Josh Dunkley played predominantly in a midfield role and had an excellent first half, rotating through the Dogs' on-ball group with Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith, Tom Liberatore and Patrick Lipinski. Gun recruit Adam Treloar didn't play as he recovers from his calf injury.
Caleb Daniel followed on from his All-Australian selection last year to dominate in the back half, while Josh Bruce, who had an inconsistent start to his career at the Dogs last season, kicked two goals including one from a strong contested mark.
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After much discussion about the new man on the mark rule introduced for this season, there was only one slip-ups from the players, with a 50-metre penalty given against Bontempelli when he moved on the mark as Hawk James Cousins went to kick.
The instance five minutes into the last quarter was the only case of the new rule in the match, with players adjusting well.
Martin led the way for the Dogs, while first-year forward Lachie McNeil (pictured below) broke into the senior side and had an impact inside-50. The Bulldogs also gave a chance to Anthony Scott, who has been training with the squad in recent weeks in the hope of a position via the pre-season supplemental selection period. Scott, who is favoured to win a list spot, didn't look out of place. No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was not selected in the senior game and instead featured in the reserves game that followed in the afternoon. The Hawks waited until after half-time to blood their top pick Denver Grainger-Barras in the back half, but Connor Downie looked good through the wing and is a shot for a round one start. Former Magpie Tom Phillips rotated through the midfield and was busy in his first outing in the brown and gold. Former Crow Kyle Hartigan had an impact in the backline with his strength and physical presence, particularly in the first half, and helped steer his side from the defensive 50.
Round one bolters
It is a fit line-up at the kennel, with Zaine Cordy, Josh Schache, Cody Weightman, Ed Richards and Taylor Duryea all left out of the main game. McNeil and Scott, if he gets signed, loom as potential early-season call ups for Luke Beveridge's side. Hawthorn gave a few more youngsters a go, such is their rebuild position, with Changkuoth Jiath impressing off half-back with his pace, dash and skill. Tyler Brockman, who was selected with pick No.46 at last year's NAB AFL Draft, was blooded as a small forward and although quiet could shape as a chance for the Hawks' season-opening clash with Essendon.
There was a scare late for Tom Liberatore (pictured below) who was hunched in the middle of the ground after a heavy collision but he ran from the field with bloodied face and had it attended to. Key forward Aaron Naughton didn't play on Wednesday as he nurses a corkie from training, while Easton Wood (hamstring) and Toby McLean (knee) were among the others missing for the Dogs. Hawthorn's big guns Tom Mitchell (shoulder), James Sicily (knee) and Jack Gunston (back) were all sidelined, while Chad Wingard as well suffered a calf injury in last week's intraclub and is in doubt for round one.
The time spent in the midfield from Phillips should make him a consideration, while Downie as well looms as a popular Fantasy choice with his progress. Jarman Impey looks back to his bouncy best after two injury-interrupted seasons, and James Worpel was everywhere in the midfield and should be registering strong scores. Rhylee West was dogged for the Bulldogs as a pressure forward and also chipped in with a goal, and could be a cheaper option.