Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell has racked up a career high 44 disposals as Hawthorn scraped home for a three-point win over St Kilda in Launceston.
The Hawks’ stalwart, who left the ground in the second term with a bloodied face, returned heavily bandaged and finished Saturday’s game with 20 contested possessions and 10 centre clearances as the Hawks won 13.9 (87) to 13.6 (84).
The Hawks didn’t have it all their own way as the young Saints pushed them to their limit, with scores level at the final break and the Saints stretching out to an 11-point lead early in the final term.
The Saints had their chances to take the game away from Hawthorn, most notably when Paddy McCartin crashed the pack to take a high-flying mark 40m from goal, but his set shot failed to bend back the required amount as he registered a behind.
Turnovers proved costly for the Saints, especially in the first quarter, which ended with the Hawks taking an 18-point lead.
The Saints held their own kicking into the breeze and returned with a newfound confidence after the break.
Captain Nick Riewoldt was the driving force up front, winning the contest when marked by Luke Hodge, who sported a bandaged right forearm on his first game back from a fracture 19 days earlier.
St Kilda took the lead with a surge of confidence, but small errors remained a weakness and the premiers took a five-point lead into the main break.
Jonathon Ceglar, Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo, Tim O’Brien and James Sicily each finished with two goals for the Hawks.
Forward Josh Bruce showed the Saints they’ve made the right decision by renewing his contract, booting two goals, while Riewoldt, McCartin, and Darren Minchington also finished with two each.