Sport AFL NAB Challenge: Hawks swoop on Lions

NAB Challenge: Hawks swoop on Lions

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New Brisbane AFL coach Justin Leppitsch admits he’ll cop some heat over his decision to field an inexperienced lineup against defending premiers Hawthorn.

The Hawks triumphed 1-22-13 (154) to 0.3.5 (23) on Thursday night in the pre-season clash against an undermanned Brisbane side at Etihad Stadium.

Vice-captain Tom Rockliff was one of three omissions from Brisbane’s original 29-man squad, leaving Andrew Raines and Matt Maguire as the only two 100-game players in the side.

The Hawks boasted 13 members of their 2013 premiership side including Jack Gunston who kicked five goals.

Sam Mitchell, with 33 disposals, was a class above the boyish Brisbane outfit.

“It was a great lesson for our young boys,” Leppitsch said.

He said he didn’t want to leave his key players feeling flat by grinding out a three-game pre-season campaign before their round-one clash with Hawthorn on March 22 in Launceston.

“We can look back 12 months and realise you can win a NAB Cup series and lose the first game by a lot of points if you’re not physically fit for that first game,” Leppitsch said, recalling the Lions’ first-round loss to the Western Bulldogs by 68 points in round one 2013.

“We’ve decided to take a longer-term view.

“There’s going to be people disappointed right this second, but I’ll tell you in about six weeks’ time you won’t even know it’s happened.”

Brisbane’s other pre-season games are against Gold Coast in Townsville on February 23, followed by a clash with Sydney on March 8.

Leppitsch says apart from key forward Jonathan Brown (foot), the Lions are aiming to field full-strength sides in the next two games.

The Hawks are looking to add Josh Gibson, Brad Hodge and Brad Sewell for their next assignment against North Melbourne in Launceston on February 21.

Hawthorn celebrated the return of Matt Suckling and Alex Woodward, who missed all of last season with knee injuries.

Former St Kilda ruckman Ben McEvoy kicked a goal and had 24 hit-outs, joining fellow Hawthorn big men David Hale (three goals), Jarryd Roughead (two goals) and Jonathon Ceglar (two goals) in a very tall forward line.

Hawthorn assistant coach Luke Beveridge said it was important for McEvoy and No.24 draft pick Billy Hartung to get game time with their new teammates.

McEvoy will be asked to help out in the forward line during the season as the Hawks adjust to life without their former spearhead Lance Franklin, who has joined Sydney.

Beveridge praised the leadership qualities of 24-year-old McEvoy.

“He really adds to our leadership mix and that’s a big bonus,” McEvoy said.