JUST when questions were starting to be asked about Hawthorn's progress under new coach Sam Mitchell, the Hawks have snapped a five-game losing streak with a comfortable win over Adelaide by 32 points at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
In a match between two teams who won't play finals, there was little on the line for either side and it felt like that for large stages of the game, before the Hawks awoke from a mid-game slumber to coast to a 13.8 (86) to 8.6 (54) victory.
HAWKS v CROWS Full match coverage and stats
After winning the first two games of the season before reaching the end of round five at 3-2 after another memorable win over Geelong on Easter Monday, the Hawks had lost nine of their past 10 games – the only win came against Brisbane in Launceston in round 10 – to take some gloss off the start of the new era.
But they are back on the winners list after being rewarded for a commanding start and composed finish.
WHAT AN INSPIRATION McEvoy make his return from broken neck
Hawthorn kicked six goals to one in an opening quarter onslaught under the roof at Marvel Stadium that never allowed the Crows to be within striking distance after quarter-time.
Key forward Mitch Lewis reached the first break with three goals on the board and threatened to tear the game to shreds when he equalled his personal best of five goals 12 minutes into the second quarter.
At that stage, it felt like the 23-year-old had a monster day in front of him when Matthew Nicks moved Jordon Butts off him and put Nick Murray on the red-hot Hawk.
Lewis was barely sighted in the second half but had already done his job, moving to 36 goals from 12 games in 2022 to move back in the top-10 of the Coleman Medal leader board.
Adelaide didn’t give up without a whimper. They kicked the first three goals of the second half and held Hawthorn goalless in the third quarter to reach the final change with a pulse.
But when Jaeger O’Meara kicked Hawthorn’s first goal of the second-half 10 minutes into the fourth quarter – just after Taylor Walker missed an opportunity on the run to reduce the margin to two goals – the Hawks were home.
The Crows were left ruing a poor start away from home amid another poor season for the South Australian powerhouse.
BIG BOY IS BACK
After four months on the sidelines, Hawthorn skipper Ben McEvoy made a long-awaited return from a broken neck at Marvel Stadium. The 32-year-old suffered the nasty injury at training after round two and looked like he might not return at some stages across this season. But the two-time premiership ruckman was back alongside Ned Reeves, spending plenty of time deep inside 50 alongside Mitch Lewis and Jacob Koschitzke.
CROUCH RESPONDS AFTER SANFL STINT
Matthew Nicks hasn't been afraid to make a statement at selection this season, especially with All-Australian midfielder Matt Crouch. The 27-year-old has been dropped twice in 2022, spending four games in the SANFL. But after collecting 42 against South Adelaide and then 41 against Glenelg across the past fortnight, Crouch was back in the 22 and finding plenty of the ball. The 2017 best and fairest winner gathered 28 touches, seven clearances and six tackles. Where he plays next year will continue to be a question of interest.
DUKE NEWCOMBE DELIVERS AGAIN
The Rising Star race may be all but over thanks to Collingwood young gun Nick Daicos, but Jai Newcombe continues to keep his name in the chasing pack. The Poowong product, who arrived at Waverley Park just over 12 months ago via the Mid-Season Rookie Draft, was one of Sam Mitchell's best players again. This time the inside midfielder finished with 25 disposals, 13 contested possessions and eight clearances. Many at Waverley Park expect Newcombe to finish in the top handful of players in the Peter Crimmins Medal. His first full season has been that good.
HAWTHORN 6.3 9.4 9.7 13.8 (86)
ADELAIDE 1.2 3.2 5.5 8.6 (54)
Hawthorn: Lewis 5, Breust 2, Impey, Morrison, Nash, Reeves, Koschitzke, O’Meara
Adelaide: Thilthorpe 2, Fogarty 2, Walker, Keays, McHenry, Milera
Hawthorn: Moore, Newcombe, Lewis, Sicily, Hardwick, Mitchell, Morrison
Adelaide: Keays, Laird, Crouch, Berry, Smith
Hawthorn: Liam Shiels (unused)
Adelaide: Ben Davis (unused)