folloA troublesome 24 hours off the field finished in disappointing fashion on the park for Hawthorn, sent crashing back to earth by Port Adelaide.
From the moment Jeremy Finlayson bagged the first of his five first-half goals inside the opening 20 seconds – before a single Hawk had registered a touch – a club-record ninth successive Power victory was never in doubt.
Hawthorn, fresh off an impressive win over top-four aspirant St Kilda and seeking a third straight win, saw their mid-season surge end courtesy of an abominable first half, salvaged by a spirited charge to the finish line, albeit well after the damage was done.
The Hawks slammed on eight of the last 10 goals, but their valiant rearguard came far too late to salvage a defeat, which followed Friday’s bombshell open letter from players and families – headlined by premiership hero Cyril Rioli – who have lodged a formal complaint against Hawthorn with the Australian Human Rights Commission, alleging mistreatment of First Nations players at the club.
Without suspended captain James Sicily, who starred in last week’s triumph over the Saints, the Hawks’ back line bled profusely, affording their opponents far too many liberties, time and time again in a calamitous first half.
Port’s stretch of wins across the past two months have largely comprised great escapes and successful scraps for survival.
This one was completely different.
The Power’s ball movement was pristine with creative, penetrating chains forged endlessly out of defence, married with scintillating use of the footy forward of centre.
Connor Rozee was at his damaging best and good mate Zak Butters continued his white-hot form.
Finlayson saw off a quarter of direct opponents in Josh Weddle, Jack Scrimshaw, Sam Frost and James Black to boot 4.2 in the first term – his two misses were a poster and a snap that missed by centimetres – propelling Port to 42-point quarter-time advantage.
Todd Marshall, who kicked one major for the term while deftly setting up two of Finlayson’s, added another two of his own to start the second term and finished with five in his return from concussion.
Jason Horne-Francis bombed a beauty from 55 and Finlayson soccered through his fifth as Port strengthened their stranglehold on the match.
The Power’s 18.9 first-half haul was their biggest ever and the largest by any side since 2012.
The margin swelled to 96 points when crafty Junior Rioli snapped his fourth before the Hawks, contemptuously treated like witches hats to that point, lifted big time.
Dylan Moore’s move into the middle inspired the visitors in the third as Jarman Impey also got busy against his old side.
Mitch Lewis broke the shackles with three second-half majors as Hawthorn turned the tables by roasting Port at the contest and in the centre square with lethal use of handball against the grain.
Three-time premiership-winning great Luke Breust started the weekend on 499 career goals before hitting both behind posts at the River End with his first two attempts of the day.
The veteran sharpshooter and acting skipper straightened up later in that opening stanza, going 1-2 via hands with Tyler Brockman to snap truly from 45 metres and bring up goal 500. Breust, who finished with five majors in the losing cause, became the seventh Hawk – after Jason Dunstall, Leigh Matthews, Peter Hudson, Michael Moncrieff, Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead – to crack that magical milestone.
With Hawthorn still searching for their first goal, Jacob Koschitzke did his best to lift his side, soaring high to pouch a majestic mark.
Midway through the first quarter on the outer wing, Koschitzke left Trent McKenzie in his wake and stood on Aliir Aliir’s head to snare a beauty.
It was a rare and fleeting shining light in a dark half for the Hawks.
PORT ADELAIDE 9.3 16.9 21.12 23.13 (151)
HAWTHORN 2.3 3.5 8.8 14.12 (96)
Port Adelaide: Marshall 5, Finlayson 5, Rioli 4, Houston 2, Byrne-Jones, Horne-Francis, Butters, Burton, Wines, Rozee, McEntee
Hawthorn: Breust 5, Lewis 3, Macdonald, Newcombe, Amon, Impey, Butler, Brockman
Port Adelaide: Rozee, Finlayson, Marshall, Butters, Rioli, Houston, Wines
Hawthorn: Worpel, Breust, Impey, Lewis, Moore, Hardwick
UMPIRES Haussen, Deboy, Heffernan, Tee
CROWD 34,234 at Adelaide Oval
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