Winless Hawks could use ‘wake-up call’: Dunstall

Shayne Hope and Murray Wenzel |

Hawthorn’s players have been warned to expect a tough week on the training track.
Hawthorn’s players have been warned to expect a tough week on the training track.

Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall believes there is still room in the AFL for a training-ground “wake-up call” as coach Sam Mitchell goes old-school in his bid to end the Hawks’ winless start to the season.

Mitchell warned his troops they faced a torrid week on the track as he questioned their work ethic and physicality after a 53-point thumping from Gold Coast on Saturday night.

Hawthorn’s fifth-straight loss followed an encouraging effort against defending premiers Collingwood in round four.

But Mitchell conceded the Suns defeat was “as bad as we’ve played in a long time” and said he would ramp up the intensity at training during an extended break this week.

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell.
Head coach Sam Mitchell has vowed to up the intensity as the Hawks look for a first AFL win of 2024. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

“If we lose one, get a corkie or something like that, we probably have to accept that,” Mitchell said post-match.

“Because we can’t play with the physicality we did tonight and expect to be competitive.”

Fellow four-time premiership Hawk Dunstall backed Mitchell’s plan to force a response out of his underperforming players leading into the clash with fellow battlers North Melbourne on Sunday.

“I suspect it doesn’t happen very often these days,” said Dunstall, who will officially be elevated to Legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame in June.

“They have such a demanding schedule and you need your best players out on the track all the time, so you can’t afford them being injured at training.

“But every now and then a wake-up call doesn’t hurt, I don’t think.”

Now an expert commentator on Fox Footy, Dunstall was working on the Port Adelaide-Fremantle match at the same time as Hawthorn’s horror show on the Gold Coast was unfolding.

Jason Dunstall.
A “wake-up call” could benefit struggling Hawthorn, Jason Dunstall says. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’d normally go home and watch it but when I saw the score I thought, ‘That’s a bit depressing, I might not watch this one’,” he said.

Hawthorn have not won a finals match since their golden era under Alastair Clarkson ended with the 2015 premiership.

They look likely to miss the finals for a sixth consecutive season as the rebuild continues under Clarkson’s successor Mitchell, now in his third year at the helm.

“We all know what they’re trying to do and the direction they’re heading, but it’s hard when you’re down the bottom to lift yourself up now,” Dunstall said.

“Clubs have spoken about priority picks for years, but an extra pick in the draft doesn’t turn things around.

“It’s a long process and it takes a lot of work.

“It could be a year, it could be three years, it could be five years. You just don’t know.”