Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has given a nod to his side’s young blood after their 19-point win over Carlton, during which big-name players took a back seat.
After a slow first half in Launceston on Saturday, which Clarkson put down to tough conditions, the Hawks came home 10.14 (74) to 7.13 (55) winners.
“Everyone talks about Carlton being a young side – we were actually a little bit more inexperienced than them,” the coach told reporters after the game, citing the number of players with less than four years experience.
The reigning premiers were without reliable forward Cyril Rioli, who was a late withdrawal due to quadricep tightness, which made way for Blake Hardwick’s debut.
“He fumbled a couple of balls that he’d usually catch but he was pretty exciting for us,” Clarkson said of Hardwick.
“He’s a strong body, he tackles well, he can mark the ball. He had a couple of opportunities to convert (but) the conditions were a bit tough – he’ll learn.”
It was a miserable first half – including a goalless second term – for the Hawks, who went to the main break with a lead of just six points.
The stats backed the Blues in every regard except precision in front of goal.
“The wind dropped away a bit in the second half so the game was able to open up and players were able to use the ball a bit better,” Clarkson said.
Shaun Burgoyne stepped up for Hawthorn and finished with 25 disposals and five inside 50s.
Luke Breust and Jonathon Ceglar each claimed a pair of goals.
It was a sore day at the office for Tim O’Brien, who contributed for the Hawks before copping a blow to the face late in the third quarter and left the ground minus a tooth.
“It was a pretty tough game but we’re pleased to get the victory,” Clarkson said after their ninth straight win, which confirms their place at the top of the ladder.
Blues coach Brendon Bolton said his side was beaten by a potent outfit, but he saw improvement in his players who, despite losses, are standing up against top competition.
“We’ve played in the last few weeks West Coast, Sydney and Hawthorn and they’ve been deep into finals, so we understand there’s progress,” Bolton said.
Patrick Cripps starred for the Blues, finishing with 31 disposals, 11 clearances and four inside 50s.
He found support from Zach Tuohy and Andrejs Everitt.
The Blues next take on St Kilda at the MCG, and Hawthorn face Melbourne.