The last time they played Sydney, Hawthorn suffered a painful defeat, tinged by the raw news of Jarryd Roughead’s cancer diagnosis.
Nearly two months later the star forward made a precious contribution from the sidelines, helping coach Alastair Clarkson and his reigning premiers steal Thursday night’s crunch clash by five points.
Clarkson revealed he sought Roughead’s opinion on the tight contest at the SCG, a result that puts two games between the ladder-leading Hawks and the rest of the ladder.
“He’s just a really calming influence because he reads the game so well,” Clarkson said.
“He’s hugely admired by his teammates so they seek his counsel, particularly our younger players.
“He sat in the box today and at different stages you just ask him, ‘What are you seeing Rough?’
“Sometimes it’ll just be a little bit different to the way we’re seeing it.
“Or sometimes as coaches we’ll be too over the top in our criticism of a movement of the ball or a player’s decision.
“He can be that reassuring player’s voice from time to time.”
While admitting Hawthorn did not play their best footy, Clarkson was encouraged that his triple reigning premiers also stopped Sydney from executing theirs.
Apart from Cyril Rioli’s long-range match-winner and Shaun Burgoyne’s two fourth-quarter clutch goals, Sam Mitchell took a match-high 37 possessions.
It was a standout performance for the star midfielder, who had been kept quiet by Tom Mitchell in May’s round-nine loss to the Swans – the Hawks’ last defeat.
That came just days after news that Roughead’s melanoma had spread into his body.
“We had a fair few guys who weren’t anywhere near their best in that particular game,” Clarkson said.
“Some of that was to do with Sydney, and full credit to them.
“But some of it was to do with the week we’d had – that was the announcement of Roughy’s illness.
“I’m proud in a sense that some of our players did wear their hearts on their sleeves that night and didn’t perform quite as well because he means so much to us.”
Clarkson praised Burgoyne for his flexibility and Rioli for his late, late heroics.
“For Cyril to kick that goal was pretty special – he was a long way out,” he said.
“I think there was a slight wind advantage to that end, he won’t claim that though.
“But it was a great kick, a pressure kick.
“He was important at really important moments.”
Hawthorn next host Richmond at the MCG.