Tom Mitchell has piloted Hawthorn to a 38-point upset win over Sydney at the SCG, upstaging Lance Franklin to snap the visitors’ five-game AFL losing streak in style.
Franklin’s 11th outing against the Hawks, whose third victory of 2021 has reduced the risk of them collecting their first wooden spoon since 1965, was expected to be a lop-sided affair.
But it was former Swans ace Mitchell who enjoyed a dominant night on Friday, setting the tone for the visitors’ 14.5 (89) to 7.9 (51) victory.
The 2018 Brownlow medallist – playing for the first time since it was reported he would be open to a trade at season’s end – had 34 possessions (16 contested), seven tackles and a goal.
He ensured the Hawks won the contested-possession count 165-139 while Sam Frost restricted Franklin to a solitary goal.
Mid-season draftee Jai Newcombe finished with 14 tackles, the most by any debutant in VFL/AFL history, while late inclusion Jonathon Ceglar, Changkuoth Jiath, Jaeger O’Meara and Ben McEvoy were also among Hawthorn’s best.
“We had an opportunity over the mid-season bye to have a bit of a reset and do some soul searching,” Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said.
“We were able to do that, get a rest, set ourselves up for a restart and try to find something out of the second half of the year.”
Isaac Heeney and Tom Papley combined for just one goal in the Swans’ most alarming loss of 2021.
“They out-hunted us,” Sydney coach John Longmire said.
“They were harder than us from the first out bounce, out-pressured us and we didn’t push back like we normally do.
“We didn’t use the ball well.”
A crowd of 25,904 repeatedly voiced their frustration with a free-kick count that finished 26-10 in Hawthorn’s favour, while even Longmire struggled to hide his disbelief with one contentious decision in the final quarter.
The Swans’ loss was soured by Will Hayward’s concussion in the second term, while Jake Lloyd and Harry Cunningham played on after painful second-quarter setbacks.
Hawthorn made their substitution late in the first half because of Harry Morrison’s hamstring injury.
The Hawks seized control of the contest by booting five goals to two in the second term, creating doubt and turnovers through immense pressure to become the only side outside GWS to topple Sydney at the SCG this season.
The shell-shocked Swans, who would have clambered above fifth-placed Port Adelaide and fourth-placed Brisbane on the ladder if they won, trailed by 24 points at halftime.
Longmire moved from the boundary line to the coaches’ box after the major break, when he also asked James Rowbottom to tag Mitchell while searching for a circuit-breaker.
Mitchell’s output was reduced in the second half, the Swans lifted and would have reduced Hawthorn’s lead to 13 points if Luke Parker’s poster, midway through the third term, was on target.
But their premiership-quarter toil was not reflected on the scoreboard, with Robbie Fox’s late turnover ensuring the margin at three-quarter time was identical to that at halftime.