Hawthorn captain Sam Mitchell has put the acid on the AFL premiers as their problems move beyond a question of personnel. For all Essendon’s speed and daring last Friday night, the Hawks were well below their best in the upset 44-point loss at Etihad Stadium.
Hawthorn were inaccurate early, blowing a chance to put some doubt into their young opposition, and then fell away alarmingly in the final term.
The Hawks are now teetering at 3-4 and they can thank the mid-table logjam for the fact they are outside the top eight only on percentage.
They face a massive test this Friday night against resurgent Fremantle, who have won their last three games and are at home.
“We’ve had a diabolical start to the season, you would say,” Mitchell said on Monday.
“We have hopefully got our best footy ahead of us and we’ve got some looking to do inside ourselves.
“Every bloke that played on the weekend needs to have a bit of a look (in the mirror) and see what he can do to help the team play a bit better.
“We’re a little bit flat, we didn’t play anywhere near the level of footy we need to play.”
Mitchell said even the stunning early-season form of Cyril Rioli was something of an indictment on the Hawks.
“He just never loses a one-no-one contest – get it anywhere near his area and you know you’re in with a good show of the footy going forward,” Mitchell said.
“He’s certainly been probably our most consistent player this year … and when you’re getting that from a second-year player, it says a lot about him as a kid.
“But it also says a fair bit about the rest of us, that we probably need to step up a little bit.”
The Hawks won their two Subiaco games last year and will go into Friday with confidence.
Mitchell has set the tone for the week, calling this a must-win game for the Hawks in their spluttering premiership defence.
“It’s a really big game for our season,” he said.
“We’ve got to win this game and we’re going to have a good chat about it today and the next couple of days and about how to counter some of the things they want to do.
“We’re really looking forward to just getting out there and hopefully redeeming ourselves, the game can’t come quickly enough.”
Luke Hodge, who has ongoing groin trouble, and Chance Bateman (calf) are the latest injury concerns for the Hawks.
Their ongoing poor luck with injuries has hurt them most in defence, where they have been unable to settle their structure so far this season.
“It’s not any excuse, we still have six defenders playing every week – it’s a bit of a cop-out to say it’s just the injuries that are costing us,” Mitchell said.
“No-one has been ruled out, which is a start for a Monday.
“We weren’t up to it (last Friday) – whether that’s a personnel thing or a mindset thing, it’s probably a little bit of both and we need to certainly play some better footy.
“Just the way we go about it, probably too much is left to too few.”