Hardy Hawks break drought against lowly Kangaroos

Shayne Hope |

Hawthorn’s two-goal Mabior Chol rises above Tristan Xerri of North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium.
Hawthorn’s two-goal Mabior Chol rises above Tristan Xerri of North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium.

Sam Mitchell’s punt on a heavy week of training has paid dividends as Hawthorn ended their winless start to the season with a 45-point belting of bottom side North Melbourne.

After being thumped by Gold Coast in round five, third-year coach Mitchell adopted an old-school physical approach on the track in a bid to force a tough response out of his players.

The ploy worked a treat as the rampant Hawks piled on nine consecutive goals in a game-busting blitz before halftime to lay the platform for a 17.11 (113) to 10.8 (68) win at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

“The players were great, I enjoyed watching them, and even some of the goals we gave up were the right type,” Mitchell said.

“We genuinely tried to put the opposition under pressure and I thought the players, to a man, held up their end of the bargain in that area.

“Their response was fantastic. Collectively the performance was of such a higher standard (than last week).

“The players had a real desperation about them and that’s what the best teams have. The challenge is, can we produce it every week?”

Jack Ginnivan.
Jack Ginnivan was among 10 goal-kickers in Hawthorn’s strong spread of contributors. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

Jai Newcombe (32 disposals, nine clearances), Conor Nash (32, 10) and Connor Macdonald (24, one) were standouts for the Hawks in the midfield and small forward Dylan Moore equalled his career-best haul with four goals.

Jack Ginnivan, Mabior Chol, Karl Amon and Lloyd Meek (two each) were also among the 10 goal-kickers in Hawthorn’s strong spread of contributors across the ground.

The triumph was the Hawks’ first of the year after their worst start to a season since their 0-7 opening to the 1970 VFL campaign.

It gave Mitchell a 2-0 head-to-head record against his former mentor Alastair Clarkson, whom he replaced as Hawthorn coach in a messy handover at the end of 2021.

The result compounded the Kangaroos’ woes, leaving them as the competition’s last remaining winless team after round six.

North have managed just one victory in 27 games after success in Clarkson’s first two outings at the helm early last year.

Ruckman Tristan Xerri fought hard in a losing cause with 19 disposals, 45 hit-outs and 10 clearances, while key forward Nick Larkey kicked three goals in his 100th game.

Paul Curtis also kicked three and Luke Davies-Uniacke (23 touches, six clearances) battled on.

Alastair Clarkson.
Alastair Clarkson’s North Melbourne are the AFL’s last remaining winless team. (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

But Clarkson conceded a raft of skill errors under perceived pressure were a reflection of the Kangaroos’ stage of development and lamented his side’s inability to prevent Hawthorn scoring heavily from stoppages.

“That was just a reflection of their greater hunger, hunt and grunt around the ball,” Clarkson said.

“We were trailing in their wake and that gave them territory … we just couldn’t stem the bleeding in that part of the game.

“We couldn’t get ourselves back into the contest because they were just tougher and harder.

“Irrespective of the result today, we knew where we’re at as a footy club, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get ourselves back up the ladder.”