In the lead up to their Round 11 match-up with Port Adelaide, the Hawks would have been well aware of their opposition’s midfield strength.
The Power are the competition leaders for clearances, averaging over 41 per game, and they are also the second-best tackling side in the competition.
So, naturally, this clash figured as one that was going to be decided by whichever side could gain the midfield ascendancy.
As it transpired, Port Adelaide were able to continue their midfield dominance: pacing the Hawks for clearances (40-27), contested possessions (124-120) and still breaking even with tackles (53 apiece).
But the Hawks were able to counteract this supremacy inside the contest with an ability to own the ball on the outside and therefore dictate the pace of the game.
This is illustrated by the Hawks’ 143 marks to the Power’s 96, a monumental discrepancy.
The Hawks had six players record double-digit marks, with Ryan Burton taking 11 marks while Jack Gunston, Liam Shiels, James Sicily, Ben Stratton and Blake Hardwick all recorded 10 grabs each.
To put these marking numbers into context, the Hawks have also surpassed the 100-mark threshold on just one occasion previously this year, in their 35-point win over St Kilda in Round 6.
They averaged just 88 grabs per game before Saturday’s match, a mark they had topped by midway through the third quarter.
Previously, the Hawks had had a player record at least 10 marks in only three rounds so far this year before the weekend, in Round 5 against North Melbourne when they had two (James Sicily and Isaac Smith), against Essendon in Round 7 (Sicily) and in the week previous against West Coast (Smith).
This reflects a clear identification by Alastair Clarkson and his coaching staff.
Keep the ball out of Port Adelaide’s hands, own the ball with repeated kick-marks and control the speed of the game.
The Hawks’ solid execution of this game plan was one of the key reasons they were able to muster their sixth victory of the season.