If AFL was about the spectacle, Hawthorn – the cool aesthetes of the competition – would be the reigning premiers.
Is there a more disparate pair than Travis Cloke and Ryan Schoenmakers?
When they lined up on each other in Round 3, if you hadn’t known better, you would have assumed Cloke – scowling and hulking – was the struggling defender, and Schoenmakers – toned and athletic, preening and prancing – was the champion goal kicker.
Seeing these two together highlighted the aesthetic difference between the Hawks and the other serious premiership contenders.
There was the contrast in demeanour too.
Even during his several goal celebrations Cloke appeared angry while his out-pointed opponent maintained an apparent (and refreshing) lack of concern.
Even their own supporters have at times put this unflustered look down to indifference.
That is unlikely given the players’ constant reference to the devastation caused by the narrow ten point loss in last year’s grand final and the even tighter three-point preliminary final loss, the year before that.
After losing again to Geelong this year, some argued that the cool dude persona was masking a mental fragility in big games.
Only the players will know the truth of that but it’s hard to believe watching their free-spirited style of play. It’s more likely the latter is the cause of the problem.
For some reason, I find left footers more appealing to watch. Hawthorn’s versions kick many of their goals and can deliver the ball beautifully to running teammates, from vast distances.
And they have a large number of lefties – I think there were ten in last week’s side.
Whether it’s pure chance, or a recruiters’ ploy (chasers expect the ball carrier to turn on to his right) they’re a joy to behold, especially that tall chap who prefers to kick goals on the run, 50 metres out, and from the wrong boundary for a left footer.
Sam Mitchell’s junior coaches saw left-footedness as a curse and tried to prevent him from doing what came naturally by making him kick with his right. Instead they made him equally good on both.
I don’t know if it’s the gold of their guernsey reflecting off their faces and the slimming effect of brown and gold stripes but they look quite tanned and slender. If they were still based at Glenferrie I’d say they were visiting the numerous local beauty clinics for skin rejuvenation therapy and injections of AOD-9604.
Talking of skin, I don’t think I’ve seen Mitchell, Josh Gibson or Shaun Burgoyne actually sweat during a game. Also, Mitchell’s hair seems permanently neat. Does he keep a comb on him?
Now, while the Hawks are full of relaxed and slender male dancer types they also have some angry nuggety ones like Brett Guerra and Brad Sewell. And an angry skilful one in Luke Hodge.
There is the rough-looking Jarryd Roughead, and David Hale (“I probably just don’t really bother about my looks any more, to be honest,”) but they are not enough to ruin the overall aesthetic appeal.
Apparently Schoenmakers put on 6kg over the pre season but that didn’t stop the Ken doll of the AFL being tossed around like a rag doll. He’s gone now – proving that despite the perfect looks, he’s human after all.
He now has to deal with something Ken will never have to worry about – a ruptured ACL.
Hawthorn are not just pretty playthings but their style and demeanour may have cost them last year’s flag.
For the sake of the game’s aesthetics, however, I hope they stay the way they are.
The 7AFL Instagram page has been running polls this week to see who the public think is the greatest player from 2010 until now. These polls got me thinking about some of the great individual players this decade such as Garry Ablett, Nathan Fyfe and Trent Cotchin.
Alastair Clarkson’s laser focus on Hawthorn’s next premiership rather than past glory is clearly evident in his decision to hand Changkuoth Jiath an AFL debut instead of granting Jarryd Roughead an AFL goodbye.