Hawthorn sink to 73-year first in embarrassing scenes against Sydney

Expectations were low for Hawthorn heading into the AFL season, but fans are up in arms about their display against Sydney.

Hawthorn players look dejected as they walk off the ground after their loss to Sydney.
Hawthorn are off to their worst start to a season since 1950, after losing their first two games by a combined 140 points. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/AFL Photos/via Getty Images) (via Getty Images)

While few in the AFL world had expected Hawthorn to mount an unlikely premiership charge in 2023 as they rebuild under head coach Sam Mitchell, fans would have nonetheless wanted more after the first two rounds of the season. The Hawks were left bruised and battered after the clash with last year's grand finalists Sydney, going down by 80 points.

It was a harsh reality check for the Hawks, who were nearly held goalless for the entire second half - save for a late major for James Worpel. Poor goalkicking prevented the Hawks from finding any way of closing the gap, as they booted 4.13 for the game.

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The 81-point defeat, combined with their 59-point round one loss to Essendon, has added up to Hawthorn's worst start to a season since 1950. The Hawks will face North Melbourne, now lead by former Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson, in round three before their traditional Easter Monday showdown with Geelong - a brutal gauntlet for the young Hawks.

Young guns Joel Amartey and Logan McDonald did much of the damage for the Swans in another brutal turn for the Hawks, with their own youngsters struggling to make an impact. Amartey booted four goals after being brought into the side for the suspended Buddy Franklin, before he was subbed off at three-quarter time.

McDonald, the no.4 pick in the 2020 draft, gave Swans fans a glimpse of what he could offer following Franklin's potential AFL retirement by booting five goals of his own. He menaced the Hawthorn defence all afternoon, with Mitchell crediting Sydney for their efficient delivery into their forward line.

"We've got some challenges. They took six contested marks in their forward 50 in the first half. That makes it tough when they're just bombing it in there, and Amartey caused us a lot of trouble early in the game and McDonald later on," Hawks coach Sam Mitchell said.

"We just weren't able to stop their aerial presence and then at the other end we really couldn't score."

Meanwhile, Hawks fans were dismayed by the effort. Though the club committed to a rebuild, trading key players in Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara in the off-season, many had hoped to see more fight through the first two rounds.

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Amartey lit up the first half in just his 14th AFL match after coming in for Franklin, and had a career-high four goals to halftime that could have been more if not for a couple of easy misses. The 23-year-old was quieter in the third term in his return from being sidelined with hamstring issues, and was substituted out at the last break.

"(McDonald) moves well, we know he's a good player, works on his craft really well. He's humble, he's a beauty, and he got reward on the scoreboard," Swans coach John Longmire said. "(Amartey) missed a bit of preseason and wasn't able to work on some of his craft that he'd like to do, but he's got back in pretty good nick.

"His hands in those marking situations were strong. He was able to provide a real forward presence for us."

Hawthorn players leave the field after their loss to Sydney.
Fans are concerned Hawthorn have gone backwards as they continue their rebuild under Sam Mitchell. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Small forward Tom Papley was typically busy and finished with two majors, while also taking an early mark of the year contender when sitting on teammate Chad Warner's shoulders to pull down a soaring grab. Co-captains Callum Mills (28 disposals, two goals) and Luke Parker (27, 1) controlled the midfield, while Errol Gulden (28) and Oli Florent (25) stood out with their pace and clever kicking.

The Hawks battled hard around the stoppages and more than matched the Swans at clearances with 35-27, but the hosts proved to be far more organised with ball in hand.

Will Day again impressed in a more central role for the Hawks with 26 touches and seven clearances, while revitalised onballer James Worpel (22, 6) took charge at the coalface and Dylan Moore (23) was a threat in attack and around the ball.

With AAP

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