Sunday, 8 July 2012
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has learnt the hard way not to flirt with AFL form.
The Hawks mercilessly crushed Greater Western Sydney 28.25 (193) to 4.7 (31) at the MCG on Sunday, piling on 17 second-half goals to two.
The margin was just three points shy of Hawthorn's club record 165-point belting of Port Adelaide last season.
The percentage boost is enormously valuable.
While the Hawks are in fifth spot, they are only a game off the top and their percentage of 152.6, up 14 percentage points, is clearly the AFL's highest.
But Clarkson said that was not the only reason he fielded a strong team - including star forward Lance Franklin, who had been under an injury cloud - and instructed them to go full throttle.
In the final home-and-away round last season, he rested seven stars and only scraped past Gold Coast before having a costly qualifying final loss to Geelong.
"I just reckon it upsets your momentum," Clarkson said of resting players.
Franklin was subbed off with hamstring tightness in the previous round but the league's leading goal kicker was right to play. He is not expected to miss next weekend's game despite being subbed off with a corked buttock midway through Sunday's third term.
"We've got enormous faith and trust that he can make good calls on his body," the coach said.
Franklin kicked four goals but his absence late in the game did not slow the Hawks, Jarryd Roughead (six goals) taking over with four last-term goals among 14 Hawthorn goal kickers.
Franklin's second major was his career 500th, with Clarkson tipping the 25-year-old could eventually double that.
"It's a pretty special performance, particularly special because he's an Aboriginal boy," Clarkson said.
"I don't think too many (indigenous) guys have had that sort of impact in front of the sticks."
Giants coach Kevin Sheedy tipped the Hawks to make the grand final and said his own youngsters would learn from taking on some of the game's best.
Midfielder Toby Greene was the Giants' best, probably shading Hawk star opponent Sam Mitchell.
"We are really about developing a team that are going to be an excellent footy team in maybe four or five years. We're going to cop a fair few whacks," Sheedy said.
Adding to the Giants' dirty day, forward Jeremy Cameron was reported for allegedly striking Clinton Young.