Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell was thrilled to see his players get reward for effort as Mitch Lewis kicked an equal career-high five goals in a 32-point AFL win over Adelaide.
The Hawks welcomed back captain Ben McEvoy from a long-term neck injury as they triumphed 13.8 (86) to 8.6 (54) at Marvel Stadium on Sunday in a match between two sides who won’t play finals.
The result snapped a five-match losing streak for Hawthorn, who have drawn level with the Crows on five wins for the season.
Lewis put Adelaide to the sword with five first-half goals, including three in the opening term as the Hawks laid the platform for the victory by opening up a 31-point lead by the first change.
The buffer grew to 38 points and was cut back to 20 during the final term as the Crows fought back.
But with Jai Newcombe (25 disposals, eight clearances), Dylan Moore (29, five) and Tom Mitchell (28, six) strong around the ball, Hawthorn managed to stave off the challenge.
“Everyone understands the path (we’re on) and we’re committed to it and we haven’t swayed away from it at any stage … but by the same token you need reward for effort,” Mitchell said.
“I was really pleased for the players that they got that today.
“As much as we haven’t had victories for a while, the one they got today they really earnt and deserved.
“For our fans to see a victory and us play in a way that was pretty pleasing to the eye, I’d imagine. I think we ticked a lot of boxes today.”
Changkuoth Jiath (24 possessions), Blake Hardwick (32) and Jack Scrimshaw (25) gave the Hawks plenty of drive from the back half, while James Sicily and mid-season draftee James Blanck were resolute in defence.
McEvoy inspired the Hawks in his first match after more than three months on the sidelines recovering from a small fracture in his neck, caused by a training mishap.
The two-time premiership ruckman had seven disposals and 19 hit-outs in his comeback.
Adelaide evened up the contest after quarter-time but posted their equal-lowest score of the season.
“The most disappointing part was the way we started,” Crows coach Matthew Nicks said.
“We coughed the footy up, we didn’t stick tackles – everything we pride ourselves on week in, week out, we left somewhere.
“It took us until quarter-time to come together and put that back at the level it needed to be at, and that got us back in the contest.”
Rory Laird (42 disposals, four clearances) and Ben Keays (30, six) were busy as always, while Riley Thilthorpe and Darcy Fogarty kicked two goals each.
Former All-Australian midfielder Matt Crouch had 28 disposals and seven clearances after being recalled from the reserves for the second time this season.