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Match preview: Hawks v Dockers

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 6: Billy Hartung of the Hawks in action during the 2016 AFL Round 07 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on May 6, 2016. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Billy Hartung will be looking to back up his strong performance against the Dockers this week.

The Form

It’s no secret that Fremantle has struggled over the first seven rounds of the season.

There has been commentary that the Dockers have failed to adapt to the way the game is played this season, with speed of ball movement and high scoring a priority for most teams, but last year’s minor premiers have battled with a host of star players sidelined by injury.

Nat Fyfe, Aaron Sandilands, Michael Johnson and Harley Bennell are crucial to the Dockers, and not having them on the park has meant they haven’t been able to execute as a side thus far. To make matters worse, Matthew Pavlich won’t travel to Tasmania, with the Dockers managing him through the season.

The Hawks returned to the winners' list last week with a runaway win over Richmond, but were made to work quite hard for three quarters before pulling away in the last term.

The Hawks played one of their youngest sides in recent memory, with players such as Kaiden Brand, Kieran Lovell, Billy Hartung, Daniel Howe and Tim O’Brien all taking the field, still in the infancy of their AFL careers.

There were also positive signs on the stats sheet. The Hawks broke even in the clearances and were five shy of winning the contested possession count against the Tigers last week, two areas which have been problematic for the reigning premiers in recent times.

Hawthorn fans will be hoping last week’s performance was a returning of the Hawthorn mojo, and a sign of things to come with some big names still to return to the team.

Stats That Matter

Hawthorn took 17 marks inside 50 last week, their highest tally for the season to date. With Jack Gunston, Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo all in great form, the Hawks will want to stretch the Dockers’ defence on Saturday.

Key Player

With Matthew Pavlich ruled out of the Fremantle side and James Frawley likely to return for the Hawks, Josh Gibson could well be freed up this week. After averaging almost 30 disposals per game in the opening three rounds, Gibson has averaged closer to 17 disposals since returning from a tight hamstring in Round 5. This game may present an opportunity to find a bit more of the footy.

It’s A Big Week For…

After a 28-disposal, one-goal game last week, Billy Hartung will be hoping he can continue that form against Fremantle in Launceston. Hartung averages just over 15 disposals at the venue, and he will want to increase that with a good performance against the Dockers.

Odd Fact

Live-wire Cyril Rioli has kicked more goals against Fremantle (25) than any other team in his career. Geelong and Adelaide sit second on this list, with Rioli having kicked 20 majors against both sides.

Final Thoughts

With Fremantle missing a number of quality players, this game presents a big opportunity for the Hawks to notch a win in their 50th match at their home away from home, Aurora Stadium.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs