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Where it's 'stat': the midfield battle

QF: Highlights Tigers v Hawks Watch the highlights from the Hawks first final of 2018;.

Given Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson’s selection of two ruckmen for his side’s qualifying final against Richmond, it was clear to see what the coaching mastermind was thinking.

Clarkson had identified some of the Tigers’ few weaknesses on their minor premiership season.

This season the reigning premiers rank second-last in the competition for average hit-outs and clearances per game, in front of only the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda in each respective statistic. 

As for the ruck duel, Thursday night’s game transpired as well as Clarkson could have hoped.

Between Ben McEvoy (34 hit-outs), Jon Ceglar (21) and a pinch-hitting role from captain Jarryd Roughead (four), the Hawks recorded almost double the Tigers’ taps count (59-30).

But unfortunately brown and gold ruck dominance did not translate to midfield dominance, with the Hawks managing just one more clearance than Richmond. 

Led by Dustin Martin with 10 clearances, the Tigers were able to nullify Hawthorn’s big man advantage and still generate essentially an equal amount of forward thrusts from the game’s stoppages (Hawthorn led the clearance count 43-42). 

Yet despite the almost identical clearance numbers, there was a major discrepancy between the sides’ inside 50 numbers.

This seems to be the area of the game where the Tigers were able to gain their true ascendancy, as they recorded 29 more forward 50 entries than the Hawks (66-37).

The 66 entries that Hawthorn conceded to the Tigers was the highest number they have allowed an opposition all season.

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