GEELONG, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 12: Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the 2020 AFL Round 02 match between the Geelong Cats and the Hawthorn Hawks at GMHBA Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 12: Shaun Burgoyne of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the 2020 AFL Round 02 match between the Geelong Cats and the Hawthorn Hawks at GMHBA Stadium on June 12, 2020 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Brown and golden oldies to set new record

Hawthorn will field the oldest team in AFL/VFL history against Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night.

The Hawks made one change to their Round 3 team, welcoming back star midfielder Jaeger O'Meara at the expense of youngster Harry Morrison.

Ruckman Ben McEvoy will get another chance in his new key defensive role.

It means coach Alastair Clarkson has backed the group of trusted veterans which were belted by Geelong by 61 points at GMHBA Stadium last weekend.

It was the Hawks' heaviest defeat in three years and has renewed debate about whether the club should rebuild through the draft after taking only two first-round picks (Will Day and Ryan Burton) in nine years.

Hawthorn fielded the equal-oldest side in 123 years against the Cats last Friday night when its average age per player (28.21 years) tied with Richmond's team from Round 15, 1923, according to Champion Data.

But Hawthorn will officially take the No. 1 spot on Thursday night barring any late changes after O'Meara, 26, was cleared to return from a facial fracture in place of 21-year-old Morrison.

The Hawks added another three mature-age recruits at the trade table last year in a bid to contend for the premiership, but the move has again left the Hawks walking a list management tightrope.

At 37, Shaun Burgoyne is the oldest player on Hawthorn’s list.
At 37, Shaun Burgoyne is the oldest player on Hawthorn’s list.

Unless the Hawks jump back into the eight, the club will face tough calls on as many as 10 veterans including seven 30-year-olds at season's end.

Clarkson said he expected the Hawks to be branded "too old, too slow, and too tall" after conceding 108 points to Geelong.

He said the Hawks got "smacked around the ball" last weekend and had to lift sharply in the midfield to have any hope of upsetting the reigning premier at the MCG.

"That wasn't just personnel either, a lot of that was to do with method and intent," Clarkson said.

"Whenever you get a fair licking like we did last week in the second half, these guys are proud players and I'd expect some sort of response.

"We need the response to be fair, we're coming up against the premiers from last year and the most dominant side of the last three years.

"If we're not strong in that space (the midfield) then we're in for a pretty horror night."

Puopolo, 32, was retained in the side after laying two forward 50m tackles and gathering nine possessions against Geelong. He has booted 10 goals in his last 24 matches.

Key forward Jon Patton (six possessions), McEvoy (seven) and Ricky Henderson (eight) all kept their spots for Thursday's clash against the Tigers, while Luke Breust (eight), Liam Shiels (nine), and James Worpel (15) also had quiet games.

Paul Puopolo is one of the Hawks’ veterans who has come under pressure to retain his spot.
Paul Puopolo is one of the Hawks’ veterans who has come under pressure to retain his spot.

The Hawks will also need to improve their ball use after registering their lowest kicking efficiency (54.1 per cent) in 20 years in the loss to Geelong.

Clarkson said O'Meara's return would help the onball operations and defended McEvoy's performance in his new key defensive role as Geelong's small forwards ran riot last weekend.

Clarkson acknowledged Richmond's fleet of speedy small forwards again presented a significant threat despite Dustin Martin's absence.

"(McEvoy's) played in that role probably four times at AFL level and three of the games he's done particularly well and last week it didn't work for us," Clarkson said.

"That wasn't because of McEvoy - he actually didn't play terribly badly (against Geelong).

"Our midfield got smashed and the supply that went in there was overwhelming."

 

 

 

Originally published as Brown and golden oldies to set new record

Ricky Henderson is one of the Hawks over 30 years of age.
Ricky Henderson is one of the Hawks over 30 years of age.