It is most certainly an understatement to suggest that the opening rounds of Hawthorn’s season to date has exceeded its expectations. 11 straight wins followed the Hawks’ only defeat at the hands of long-time nemesis Geelong in round one, and at the end of June they are entrenched at the top of the ladder, a full game clear of the Cats, seemingly assured of a top two finish. As the Hawks seek redemption for their 10-point Grand Final loss to the Swans at the end of last year, there is one player that has taken his game to a new level in 2013 and as a result has become arguably the Hawks’ most valuable player.
171-game veteran Jarryd Roughead at present sits third on the Coleman Medal tally with 36 goals in 12 matches, averaging a cool three goals per game. After starting the season slowly, booting just 12 goals in the first six rounds, Roughead has found his feet up forward, booting 24 goals in the last six weeks, including hauls of five against West Coast and GWS. This compares incredibly well with his overall total of 41 goals in 23 matches in 2012.
Admittedly, Roughead was used in a slightly different role for the Hawks last year, where he played as a forward/ruckman, a role he first performed successfully during the 2011 season, which was prematurely ended by an Achilles injury. However, this season Roughead has been spending more time inside the Hawks forward 50 than in the ruck. As a result he has averaged only 3.7 hit outs per game this year, compared to 9.6 in 2012. He is also averaging a career high number of disposals per game with 17.1, nearly five marks and his goal accuracy is also at a career high of 75 percent.
While most of the attention of opposition defenders is directed at his highly publicised teammate Lance Franklin, Roughead is proving this year to be equally as dangerous for the Hawks, as he is an accomplished contested mark, a much more accurate kick for goal and has the added flexibility of pinch hitting in the ruck if needed. While most people remember that Franklin booted 100 goals in Hawthorn’s most recent premiership season of 2008, it is often overlooked that Roughead kicked 75 goals of his own that season, a number that would have in fact won two of the last three Coleman Medals.
The way his season is progressing, Roughead is likely to kick upwards of 60 goals, and if he can maintain the rich vein of form he is producing at present, in combination with Franklin and the underrated Luke Breust, the Hawks are going to be extremely hard to beat come September. It is a testament to Roughead’s importance that the Hawks have won 36 of the last 46 matches he has played in since the beginning of 2011.
The worry with his goal kicking that plagued him late last year also seems to have been eradicated, where he kicked just 1.8 in the Hawks final five appearances of 2012, as opposed to a much healthier 36.12 so far this year. While like many of his teammates, his overall numbers are not as strong against Geelong, Roughead has still managed to have an impact against the stronger clubs in recent times, producing two hauls of four goals against the Dockers, and bags of five and four against the Swans in the last two years during the Hawks’ recent successful period.
Admittedly, one player isn’t the be all and end all of a clubs chances of taking out the ultimate prize in September. However, if the Hawks are able to have Roughead firing at his current level, then they will indeed be a force to be reckoned with and it will take one hell of an effort from any team, even Geelong, to stop them from becoming the 2013 premier.