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Five talking points: R17

Ben Collins  July 15, 2017 6:55 PM

R17: Highlights v Geelong The Cats and Hawks clash in round 17

1. Mitchell's hot start
A week after becoming the first player to have had at least 30 touches in 12 successive games, Tom Mitchell might well have set another record. Mitchell had a possibly unprecedented three kicks in the opening 38 seconds, including the first goal of the game (a delightful snap on his trusty left foot). It set the scene for a remarkable 19-touch first quarter. It helped that his likely opponent, stopper Scott Selwood, was a late withdrawal, and Cam Guthrie spent considerable time on the bench. Cats big man Mark Blicavs tried to stem the flow but by half-time Mitchell had 27 possessions (11 contested), five clearances and two goals. His second, on the run from 50 metres, was a beauty, as was a half-volley gather and release at a stoppage before half-time. Mitchell ended up with 43 touches and now averages 27.29 disposals a game – more than any other player since 1965. 

2. Beware the wounded Danger
A collective sigh went around the MCG after just 19 minutes when it appeared Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield had suffered a broken leg. As he kicked on his left foot, his lower leg slammed into Hawks skipper Jarryd Roughead. As he grimaced on all fours, Dangerfield immediately waved to the bench for help and was assisted off by two trainers. Unable to place any weight on the leg, he was taken down into the rooms. At that point, the Cats' premiership hopes and Brownlow Medal betting were thrown into disarray. So it was quite a shock when the reigning medallist re-emerged just a few minutes later to take the field. Though limping and basically on one leg, he was sent to full-forward and bagged five goals in the next 35 minutes of game time. From 20 touches and 12 marks (four contested), he finished with 5.6 and could easily finished up with seven or eight majors. He was the difference and certainly best-afield.

3. 83 points better
When these two sides met in Round 4 at the 'G, it was a one-sided afair. The Cats triumphed by 86 points (their biggest win against Hawthorn since 1949). However, the Hawks have turned their season around since beating Adelaide a month ago, winning against Collingwood, before drawing with flag fancies GWS last week, and finally narrowing the margin to just three points against the Cats this weekend - an 83 point difference since their last encounter.

4. Hodge's triple ton
Hawks fans of all ages took advantage of the free Luke Hodge masks on offer pre-game – and their hero didn't let them down. The 33-year-old – playing his 300th game after announcing he'll retire at season's end – martialled his troops from defence as astutely as ever while performing the usual acts of pack-splitting courage and desperation, and creating with his precision kicking. After Dangerfield kicked his fourth, Hodge was moved to foreign territory at full-back and soon conceded a free kick and goal to the Geelong champ. Redeployed further afield, Hodge gave away a free kick for kicking in danger when he kicked Cam Guthrie in the face. With 18 seconds left he nailed a long goal on his non-preferred right foot to give his team a chance. Geelong had a milestone man of their own with ruckman Zac Smith reaching his 100th game (65 of which he played with God Coast). Smith and partner Rhys Stanley enjoyed a good battle with Ben McEvoy. 

Read: Match report Round 17

5. Clarkson equals Kennedy's club record
Another layer was added to Alastair Clarkson's coaching greatness when he led the Hawks for the 299th time, drawing level with the club record set by Hawthorn godfather John Kennedy senior (Clarkson's first coach at North Melbourne back in the 1980s). The Hawks' four-time premiership mentor enthused this week that the club was assembling a team he felt would claim its next flag, though not placing a timeframe on the rise. The positive signs continued against the Cats with impressive contributions from younger players like Mitchell, Billy Hartung, Ryan Burton and Daniel Howe.