SO IT’S DOWN THERE CAZALY

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JAY CLARK

ALASTAIR Clark­son might have hood­winked us all again.

We could be for­given for think­ing his gun for­wards would pre­fer to mark the ball when they roam in­side- 50m.

But the se­cret to one of the most lethal scor­ing sides in football history might not be their aerial power.

Rather, the real phe­nom­e­non driv­ing the club’s his­toric at­tempt at a premier­ship three- peat is what is hap­pen­ing on the for­est floor in at­tack.

For­get the go­rilla for­wards, and get your head around “Al’s Anteaters”.

At a time when con­ges­tion and ex­tra de­fen­sive play­ers are mak­ing scor­ing harder than ever, Hawthorn ranks a clear No. 1 for re­tain­ing pos- ses­sion from their kicks in­side- 50m.

But the laser- like Hawks only rank sev­enth for gen­er­at­ing a mark from these kicks. They don’t al­ways even go straight in the di­rec­tion of their team­mate.

Ac­cord­ing to Cham­pion Data, when it comes to kick­ing to a tar­get, the Hawks rank 13th.

Where the Hawks’ for­wards eyes re­ally light up is when the ball is kicked to green grass, bounc­ing along nicely out in front of them.

That is where Hawthorn, a clear No. 1 for ground­ball gets in its for­ward- 50m, strikes with dev­as­tat­ing suc­cess.

In­cred­i­bly, the brown and gold for­wards have won 13 more ground­ball con­tests than their op­po­si­tion de­fend­ers for the sea­son, mak­ing it the only team in the AFL to record a pos­i­tive dif­fer­en­tial in this area. Out­num­bered? No space? It doesn’t mat­ter. More of­ten than not, it’s a Hawthorn player scoop­ing the ball up off the ground close to goal.

And for Rich­mond’s small de­fend­ers, the chal­lenge fac­ing them at the MCG tonight is enough to keep you awake at night.

Ac­cord­ing to Hawthorn cham­pion Shane Craw­ford, the phi­los­o­phy for­ward is about kick­ing it to “the most us­able op­tion”.

“They ( Hawks) ei­ther kick it to space in the for­ward line, or kick it to a one- on- one in a way that favours their team­mate,” Craw­ford said.

And it’s not only the livewire gang in Paul Puopolo, Cyril Ri­oli and Luke Breust do­ing the dam­age. Jar­ryd Roug­head, at 193cm, has won more ground­ball con­tests than any Hawk for­wards.

Pic­ture: ADAM TRAF­FORD

ANOTHER ONE: Paul Puopolo of the Hawks cel­e­brates a goal dur­ing the Round 13 win against Essendon.

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