Alastair Clarkson has brushed aside the notion that Hawthorn is becoming a win-from-behind side after his troops took almost half the game to find their form and overcome Gold Coast.
The Hawks started as hot favourites in Sunday’s contest at Launceston, but at the worst found themselves trailing by 21 points as the lowly Suns rose to the occasion.
But it wasn’t a worry for the Hawthorn coach when reflecting on the 12.14 (86) to 8.12 (60) win.
“That’s what happens in games of footy, it’s like a game of chess in a sense – you’ve just got to feel your way a bit,” Clarkson told reporters, citing cold and wet conditions that made for a trying contest in front of a small 10,000 crowd at Aurora Stadium.
By halftime the Hawks were within a point and took the lead nine minutes into the third term, thanks to experience from the likes of Sam Mitchell and captain Luke Hodge.
“It wasn’t a convincing victory but we ground away and we got the result we were after,” Clarkson said.
“We were just a little bit off with some of our skills.”
The premiers finished with 120 contested possessions, 16 less than the Suns – a statistic defended by Clarkson.
“We’ve been not so spectacular at contested footy for a long period of time and we won silverware playing that brand of footy,” he said
“But if we’re low in one thing like contested ball we must be good in something else – it’s swings and roundabouts.
“We don’t like that we’re low in contested ball but we don’t look at that as the most important statistic that measures whether we win games of footy. And our results have proven that over the last three or four years.”
Mitchell finished with 35 disposals while Hodge and Grant Birchall each recorded 28.
It was the captain’s first game since suffering a round-six knee injury and Clarkson was quick to sing Hodge’s praises.
“He just reads the game so well and gives us so much more flexibility,” the coach said of his skipper.
“Together with Shaun Burgoyne, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, to have that sort of flexibility is really important.
“If we can get that flexibility in our side we think we’re a more potent side.”
The win takes Hawthorn to top of the AFL ladder, but with a bye next round Clarkson said the standings could quickly change.
Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was his usual handy self for the Suns, recording 40 disposals and booting a goal, but didn’t have a blinder which is probably what Gold Coast needed if they were to produce an upset win.
Coach Rodney Eade was pleased with his star player and with 90 per cent of the game overall.
“Our kicking percentage after halftime was the difference – we missed three shots in the third quarter,” Eade said.
But importantly, morale in the playing group is high.
“The spirit among the group has really solidified, they’re really strong together.
“After the Richmond (round 12) game we got a lot of confidence by getting players back and we should have won and today was really competitive and could have won, so they’re getting confidence.”
The Suns face St Kilda next round.