New faces but the Hawks still aces

HOT SHOT: James Sicily of the Hawthorn Hawks scores a goal to fight back in the second quarter against the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
HOT SHOT: James Sicily of the Hawthorn Hawks scores a goal to fight back in the second quarter against the North Melbourne Kangaroos. TRACEY NEARMY

AFL: Hawthorn has learnt to take the good with the bad in recent seasons.

It's just fortunate for the Hawks there has been far more good as they've swept the last three premierships.

And as they zero in on a record-equalling fourth-straight flag, season 2016 has been no different.

Player departures, retirements and injuries means the Hawks have a decidedly more youthful look about them.

But ahead of hosting the Gold Coast tomorrow at Aurora Stadium - where they have won their past 17 games - the Hawks sit third on the ladder.

"We're not as consistent in-game as what we'd like," Hawks assistant coach Adem Yze told Australian Regional Media. "And that comes with having young blokes getting their opportunities.

"In saying that, we're sitting at 10-3 and it's a really good spot to be ... and that's the confidence we get from it.

"It's testament to the kids. They play to our system. We expect them to come in and fill that role, irrespective of who they are."

Case in point have been exciting young forwards James Sicily and Tim O'Brien, Sicily (pictured) the match-winner against North Melbourne last week with five goals.

They've effectively replaced Jarryd Roughead and Ryan Schoenmakers from last year's grand final line-up.

"They are young and trying to hold down key-position spots on the ground for us," Yze said of the pair. "But they've got some amazing strengths and attributes."

Among contested marking and accurate kicking, another of Sicily's strengths has been winning free kicks for head-high tackles.

"The art of lifting the arm and making the tackle slide up around your head is that - an art," Yze said. "It's hard to combat."

Like those adopting the controversial tactic, he has attracted some criticism. Yze, though, says the onus must be on the tackler.

"We obviously speak to the guys who are tackling about thinking their way through it and if you feel it is sliding up, change what you're doing."

The Hawks themselves have had an ability to adapt to any situation and it's keeping them in a position to match Collingwood's "fourpeat" (1926-29).

"We don't shy away from it, we know it's there," Yze said. "It's pointless trying to hide from it. You've got to embrace it. We want to win it again and we're not scared to say so."

First things first though and the Hawks are aiming to head into their mid-season bye with an eighth-straight win over the Suns (3-9).

But Yze and his defence won't be underestimating a Gold Coast attack featuring "big talls" Tom Lynch (199cm), Sam Day (196cm) and Peter Wright (202cm).

"We're not underestimating the height of Lynch, Wright and Day," he said.

"It won't just be up to one player (such as Hawk fullback James Frawley on Lynch) ... we need to help each other when we can."

While Hawks skipper Luke Hodge is the big "in" for the Hawks, in place of Cyril Rioli (family funeral), the Suns welcome back defender Adam Saad and onballer Aaron Hall.

Topics:  hawthorn hawks

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