Retribution is a common occurrence in the AFL, proven through Geelong’s winning streak over Hawthorn in light of the 2008 Grand Final. However, last week it was Hawthorn which was able to gain revenge over a bitter Grand Final loss, defeating reigning premiers Sydney by six goals. The Hawks’ victory propelled them into the top four, and it seems all but certain that they will stay there until the bye in round 11.
With only one loss this season, Hawthorn has emerged relatively unscathed from a difficult opening seven rounds. These matches included facing the other three Preliminary Finalists from the previous season, two interstate trips and a match against Geelong, a side Hawthorn has yet to defeat since their famous victory in 2008.
Despite this tough start to the season, Hawthorn remain entrenched in the top eight, and will look to secure this position over the next few weeks. With the bye looming in round 11, Hawthorn has three matches against GWS, Gold Coast and Melbourne prior to their week off.
With all due respect to GWS, Gold Coast and Melbourne, the far more accomplished side in Hawthorn should fail to view these upcoming matches with any real fear. Instead, Hawthorn should view these matches as an opportunity to provide match practice to relatively untried players.
Seven rounds into the season, Hawthorn have only used 27 players, the equal lowest of any side in the competition. Excluding season ending injuries to Ryan Schoenmakers, Matt Suckling and Alex Woodward, Hawthorn have a relatively full list of players to choose from.
Players such as recycled Matt Spangher and Kyle Cheney, or the untried Jordan Kelly, Sam Grimley and Angus Litherland, have all been named as emergencies as least once this season and are yet to play senior football. Spangher and Cheney in particular have been close to being picked on numerous occasions, with nine emergency listings between the two players.
The next three matches provide an opportunity to give these players or any other inexperienced players to have an extended run at senior level. With eight players on Hawthorn’s list yet to debut, matches against three teams with four wins between them is as good a time as ever to see if they can prove themselves on the big stage with the pressure off.
The successes of 2013 debutants Taylor Duryea and Jed Anderson, as well as round six Rising-Star nominee Bradley Hill, prove that Hawthorn’s youth program is developing quality young players, and it would be a grave oversight to ignore the opportunity provided by an easy stretch of matches prior to the bye.
Hawthorn have done exceptionally well in a tough opening seven rounds of football, facing all seven finalists from last year for only one loss. Now that the fixture is looking to be easier for the Hawks, it’s time to let senior players have a break and give the young players a taste.
With finals football all but guaranteed already, the Hawks have a long season in front of them. If injuries or suspension were to hit Hawthorn later in the year, it would be a good insurance policy to have players that have already tasted senior football waiting in the reserves. The challenging start to the season is over. Now the Hawks have a new challenge; finding out what untried players are capable of making an impression at the senior level.