And yet, for the 44 players, this was still business. And for the Hawks, the day brought a hard-earned four points in a 14.6 (90) to 9.8 (62) win which will leave them in the top eight until at least the end of autumn.
The teams themselves were evenly-matched. Clarkson’s men won the game on the back of a three-goal stretch in the second term. The Lions remained within striking distance for much of the second half before Hawthorn kicked away late, with the final 28-point margin probably not an accurate reflection of the match’s closeness.
Just as absurd as the match itself? Arguably Hawthorn’s best performer was 37-year-old Shaun Burgoyne, the AFL’s oldest player. He kicked three goals and deftly set up another for Jonathon Patton. In the third term Burgoyne – playing as a deep forward – shrugged off Marcus Adams and dribbled through a major. It was comforting at such an unsettling time to see that Burgoyne’s class remains a constant.
The Hawks were generally more clinical in front of goal. Not only did they have Burgoyne’s finishing, so too did they enjoy the crafty work of Chad Wingard and Luke Breust. Meanwhile down the other end, James Sicily’s intercepting was telling at times. Tom Mitchell didn’t miss a beat on return, finishing with 25 disposals, although he was probably shaded in the midfield stakes by Lions star Lachie Neale.
Burgoyne was on the board early, converting from the forward pocket from a free kick. He hadn’t been the recipient though. It was Ricky Henderson who should have taken the kick after being collected high in a crude hit from Adams. But Henderson came off the ground worse for wear, leaving Burgoyne to finish the job. Thankfully Henderson returned. The most serious injury concern of the day was Lions ruckman Stefan Martin, who finished the game sidelined with a knee issue.
When the AFL fixture was released five months ago, the prospect of Grant Birchall’s first game for the Lions coming against his old club loomed large. Alas four-time premiership hero’s debut for Brisbane will have to wait (and it will be months now) after he was a late withdrawal with hamstring soreness. Birchall was replaced by draft slider Deven Robertson. The West Australian was quiet on debut, finishing with seven disposals.
Hawthorn: Burgoyne, Wingard, Breust, Shiels, Smith, Mitchell, O’Meara, Sicily, Frost
Brisbane: Neale, Andrews, Lyons, Robinson