Hawthorn’s AFL season of great expectations opened with a pulsating 22-point win over Collingwood at the MCG on Friday night.
Lance Franklin kicked five goals as the Hawks eventually broke clear of last year’s grand finalists to win 20.17 (137) to 16.19 (115).
The match lived up to its billing as the clash of the opening round and it attracted a near-capacity crowd of 78,464.
The last time these teams met, Collingwood beat Hawthorn by three points in a preliminary final result that broke the Hawks’ hearts.
Hawthorn are widely tipped to make this year’s grand final.
The Magpies were left ruing a succession of missed shots on goal when they controlled the first quarter.
Collingwood kicked three goals early in the final term to take a five-point lead, but the Hawks then sealed the game with a five-goal burst.
There were 12 lead changes before the Hawks broke clear.
Defender Grant Birchall and forward Cyril Rioli also starred for Hawthorn, while Collingwood midfielder Scott Pendlebury was arguably best afield and ‘Pies ruckman Darren Jolly was also solid.
A three-goal spree from Hawthorn, capped by a brilliant snap from Brendan Whitecross, gave them a 26-point lead early in the third term.
But Collingwood rallied superbly and only trailled by six points at the last change.
Sam Mitchell first dominated the centre clearances in the third quarter and then Pendlebury was outstanding around the ground to help bring his team back into the game.
The second term belonged to Rioli, who kicked two goals and took an early contender for mark of the year.
He was pivotal as the Hawks recovered from a slow start to lead by 15 points at the main break.
Hawthorn were in trouble during the first term and only Collingwood’s poor goalkicking – they were 0.6 – kept the margin to six points at quarter-time.
Rioli, playing mainly as a small forward, then started the second term with a towering mark over Heath Shaw.
His pass set up Whitecross for a goal to level the scores.
The Magpies then threatened to take control again with two goals, giving them a 13-point lead.
But Rioli kicked a brilliant goal and that sparked a Hawks surge.
They kicked seven of the last 10 goals in the second quarter.
The AFL’s new video review system for scoring decisions passed an early test when a long kick from Hawthorn’s Matthew Suckling found Franklin on the goal line.
Franklin took a juggling mark and the goal umpire correctly queried whether he had crossed the line before controlling the ball.
The mark was disallowed and the behind awarded to Suckling.
Hawks captain Luke Hodge was ruled out on Thursday with a calf muscle injury, while Collingwood counterpart Nick Maxwell was among a long list of front-line Magpies players who were unavailable for the game.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and Magpies counterpart Nathan Buckley, who made his senior coaching debut, separately said it was a game where the momentum ebbed and flowed throughout.
They also noted the unusually high number of scoring shots in the game.
“We were really pleased we were able to gather the momentum in the last part of the game, but it was a real arm wrestle in that regard,” Clarkson said.
“I don’t think either side play footy in that manner – they’re not sides that allow oppositions to kick 16, 18, 20 goals.
“That’s probably just a reflection of … round one of the season, players under fatigue, 130 minutes of footy, a pretty warm night and I’d expect that to settle down a bit over the next few weeks.”
Hawthorn will next play Geelong on Easter Monday and Clarkson thinks Hodge will also miss that game.
Buckley said the game opened up too much and this worked in the Hawks’ favour.
“Probably halfway through the second quarter, the game opened up and changed,” he said.
“If you play an open-field, somewhat uncontested brand of football against a side with the best foot skills in the competition, you’re going to struggle.”