ANOTHER record-breaking game from Tom Mitchell has propelled Hawthorn to an emphatic 34-point win over Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday night.
Mitchell collected 54 disposals to surpass the previous individual best of 53 held by Gary Ablett and Greg Williams, to again put the Magpies to the sword after his 50-possession game against them in round nine last year.
As the Hawks signalled their intention to march back into finals contention in 2018 with the 15.11 (101) to 9.13 (67) win, the Pies again had no answers for Mitchell as he motored to another prolific performance.
WATCH: World Cup-style cross and goal
"We tried to curb his influence but were unable to," Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said.
"We had 'Tay' [Taylor Adams] and Steele [Sidebottom] and 'Crispy' [Jack Crisp] on him at various times after quarter-time.
"He's a good player. He gets his hands on the ball, wins stoppages, he's probably one of the cleanest ball handlers in the shoe box in the first five to 10 metres, and he's proving to be a really good spreader to the next contest.
"I thought he and [Jaeger] O'Meara early in the game, from the centre bounce in particular, gave Hawthorn's forwards first access to it."
The Hawks had winners everywhere. O'Meara collected 27 possessions and six clearances in another encouraging outing, Luke Breust kicked four goals, Jack Gunston celebrated his 150th game and return to attack with two majors and 12 scoring involvements, and Shaun Burgoyne was important in his new forward-half role early on.
And Cyril Rioli only had 14 touches after starting on the bench in his first game since round eight last year, but he used them to show glimpses of his old brilliance.
James Sicily was another who stood out with 26 disposals, seven marks including three contested, and 11 tackles in a composed and skilful display across half-back.
Big numbers against Buckley's Pies
|54||Tom Mitchell (Haw)||R1, 2018|
|53||Gary Ablett (GC)||R10, 2012|
|50||Tom Mitchell (Haw)||R9, 2017|
|49||Gary Ablett (GC)||R17, 2013|
The Hawks blasted the Magpies with a six-goal-to-three second quarter to open up a 27-point lead at half-time and didn't look back from there as they cruised to an opening round victory.
The only blow for the Hawks was a game-ending ankle injury to defender Ryan Burton in the second quarter.
WATCH: Hawk defender goes down injured
While the Hawks were a cut above in class and ball movement, it was more of the same for the Magpies as they failed time and time again to make use of momentum swings.
Some new moves paid off with Ben Crocker their most effective forward, Darcy Moore pulling down eight marks in defence before he was thrown forward late in a desperate attempt to find some firepower and debutants Sam Murray and Jaidyn Stephenson showing positive signs.
WATCH: Crocker finds a way to goal
But Mason Cox (six disposals) struggled for effectiveness and simply couldn't take a mark as a forward option, Travis Varcoe was quiet, and their leading possession-winner – Adam Treloar with 32 – moved the ball at just 40 per cent efficiency.
The first quarter was played at breakneck pace and the Pies were in the contest, with Ben Reid presenting well in attack, Tom Phillips moving the ball well and Moore looking settled.
But Mitchell and O'Meara got on top in the second quarter turnaround with their work at the centre clearances telling, before the Pies offered a late rally that saw them whittle a 39-point three-quarter time margin to 23 points in the last term.
"We were pleased with our endeavour against a pretty formidable opponent," Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said.
"I reckon they're going to be OK this year, the Pies, and we were really pleased we were able to get the points, because it loomed as a pretty tight affair right throughout the course of the game.
"We just managed to get some scoreboard ascendancy late in the second quarter that just gave us that three or four-goal buffer that we were able to maintain for the greater part of the rest of the game."
Hawthorn: Ryan Burton made everyone in the MCG cringe when the replay of his ankle injury was shown on the big screen. The defender's left foot rolled alarmingly inwards when his toe clipped Jaidyn Stephenson's heel as the pair chased a loose ball, and he went crashing to the deck. While he couldn't bear weight on it as he helped off, the initial prognosis from the Hawks is that it's not a significant injury and he's a chance for the Easter Monday clash with the Cats.
Collingwood: The Pies picked up a couple of injuries late in the game with Josh Smith nicking a hamstring in the fourth quarter and Ben Crocker coming off after copping a knock to his back. Darcy Moore was icing both Achilles tendons in the rooms afterwards but isn't believed to have picked up any fresh concerns.
The Hawks have got a nice, long break before their Easter Monday clash against Geelong, an opponent they haven't beaten since 2015. The challenges keep coming for the Magpies with a twilight home clash against Greater Western Sydney booked for next Saturday.
HAWTHORN 4.4 10.7 13.9 15.11 (101)
COLLINGWOOD 3.4 6.4 7.6 9.13 (67)
Hawthorn: Breust 4, Burgoyne 2, Gunston 2, Henderson 2, Smith, Shiels, Rioli, Schoenmakers, Roughead
Collingwood: Crocker 2, Reid, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott, Sidebottom, Aish, Moore, Thomas
Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sicily, O'Meara, Gunston, Smith, Breust
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Treloar, Crocker, Pendlebury, Murray, Stephenson
Hawthorn: Burton (left ankle), McEvoy (corked thigh)
Umpires: Nicholls, Fleer, Mollison
Official crowd: 58,051 at the MCG
More to come.