The more things change, the more they stay the same in the AFL; 14 rounds into the 2016 season competition heavyweights Hawthorn are on top of the ladder.
The challengers have come thick and fast for the Hawks this year, but Alastair Clarkson’s men have overcome inconsistent form and injuries to key personnel to claw their way to the top of the pile once again.
For all of their doubters, Hawthorn’s bid for a historic fourth premiership in a row appears on track as they head into their bye – albeit after a surprisingly hard-fought win over lowly Gold Coast.
“All you can do in this game is keep notching up the challenges that you’ve got from week to week and we’ve been able to do that on 11 occasions now,” Clarkson said after his side went top with an 11-3 record.
“We’re pleased that we get a little bit of a break now.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point in time but it will be good to have a bit of a deep breath for four or five days and then get ourselves ready for what promises to be a really fascinating battle against Port Adelaide next Thursday week.”
Geelong held top spot by percentage heading into round 14 but slipped to third after they were upset by St Kilda, by three points at Etihad Stadium.
The enthralling contest produced a major talking point after red-hot Brownlow Medal favourite Patrick Dangerfield was involved in a brief scuffle with Jarryn Geary.
Dangerfield caught Geary in the head with his knee as he attempted to break free, but the Cats’ onballer said he wasn’t worried about receiving a ban over the incident.
“From my perspective it is (a beat-up) … it’s hard to get up when someone’s grabbing your leg,” Dangerfield told the Nine Network’s Sunday Footy Show.
“From my perspective the contact was very much insufficient (to warrant a report).”
The Saints joined the logjam of five teams with 6-7 records sitting two games outside the eight.
Port Adelaide, Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda and Carlton – in that order – occupy ninth to 13th on the ladder, with all holding onto faint hopes they can mount a charge for a finals berth.
Adelaide, Collingwood, Richmond and Greater Western Sydney were the other winners from round 14.
North Melbourne, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle, Geelong and Hawthorn have the last of the byes before full rounds resume.