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Hawks top AFL table, but fail to make impression on flag market

Hawthorn AFLHAWTHORN’S hard-fought win over the Suns and subsequent jump to the top of the ladder has only seen the reigning premiers move to the second line of betting ($5.25) at Sportsbet.com.au.

The Hawks were surprisingly-behind at half time and looked to be on the ropes, but in a common 2016 theme Alastair Clarkson’s men found a way to grind out a win.

The win prompted Sportsbet to move the premiers into clear second favourite for the flag, but the performance was not enough to place them at the top of the betting tree.

The Hawthorn coach said there is still plenty of improvement left in his players.

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“I’d like to think that we can improve a little bit. It’s probably mainly to do with consistency from quarter to quarter.” Clarkson said.

“We’ve particularly played well when we’ve really needed to play well.”

Despite the lacklustre performance there were still plenty of positives for the Hawks.

Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge returned after a long injury layoff, collecting 22 disposals while providing a calming influence down back.

The three-time premiership skipper believes his team’s win loss record is reflective of their ability to win games when they are not at their best.

“We’ve learnt not to panic.” Hodge said.

We’ve got a pretty senior group so if we’re not playing as good as what we wanted in the first half of there’s a few simple tweaks here and there, we can normally hit the scoreboard pretty quick.”

“We’ve been able to get some wins when we haven’t played great football. We’ve still been able to play some pretty good football in patches.”

The Hawks have been able to generate wins when they are not at their best, something flag favourites Geelong have not been able to master to this point of the season.

Geelong’s three-point loss to St Kilda has not had a negative impact on their premiership chances.

Chris Scott’s men remain the standalone $4.25 favourites for the flag.

The Cats have an imposing 6-1 record against fellow top eight sides, but losses to Carlton, Collingwood and now St Kilda takes the gloss off what has otherwise been a stellar season to date.

Geelong coach Chris Scott acknowledged that the inability to beat the sides outside of finals contention is becoming a concern, but he is happy his team are able to beat the best.

“For sure, but it’s better to beat the top teams than the ones that might not be there in September,” Scott said.

“I’m not saying I’m happy with it, but you take what you can sometimes.”

Scott was philosophical in the aftermath of the narrow loss, stating that the defeat it is indicative of a competitive football league rather than a lax attitude from his team.

“I think it just shows us that we’ve got work to do,” he said.

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“I bristled a little bit (at a question about his players’ mindset) because we did the preparation and we were ready.

“What it shows to me more than our mindset is that the comp’s tight. It’s dangerous to look at the ladder and assume things should be OK.”

The big movers in the market were the Adelaide Crows.

The Crows began the round as $9 outsiders for the flag, but after crushing one-time league leaders North Melbourne by 33-points on Thursday night the South Australians moved into $7.50.

Adelaide is just four points adrift of second placed Sydney, and given they play three teams placed outside of finals contention over the next month there is no reason to believe their momentum will slow any time soon.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke believes the key to success for his side this season is to remain focused.

“We’re building, we’ve played some good, strong footy and tonight’s another step forward for us,” Pyke said.

“I think we’re building some belief and some real confidence within the group.

“The next target for us is to try and put ourselves in a spot to qualify for finals and it really is week to week.

“There’s no easy games in this comp and I’ve learnt that very quickly – but that said, the guys are in a good space.”

The only concern for the Crows was a lopsided score line which saw the home side kick 28 behinds – the most in the team’s history and the most by any team in 21 years.

Pyke said his side’s wayward kicking is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“You always worry about (poor kicking bringing you down) but I felt the way the game was being played and the flow of the game, it was coming more into our half and I just felt like eventually that would lead towards goals,” he said.

“We do a lot of work on it and we’ll continue to do a lot of work on it because it’s an area where we’ve got to do better.”

Both the Cats and the Hawks have a week off of football in round 15 while the Crows travel to Melbourne to face the Demons on Sunday afternoon.

2016 premiership market

Odds provided by sportsbet.com.au

Geelong – $4.25
Hawthorn – $5.25
Sydney – $5.50
GWS – $6
Adelaide – $7.50
Western Bulldogs – $12
West Coast – $13
North Melbourne – $14

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