Cyril Rioli’s push into defence in pre-season is just another plank in Hawthorn’s platform of building a versatile AFL team.
Hawthorn might not have to bother sending Cyril Rioli down back this AFL season, but it’s nice to know his wizardry extends to both ends of the field.
The dual premiership small forward has been trialled in defence in pre-season with tremendous success.
The defending premiers aren’t short of options though to fill the hole left by retiring back pocket Brent Guerra, with fit-again Matt Suckling among the contenders.
Hawthorn are confident they boast plenty of goalkicking firepower in 2014, despite the absence of Lance Franklin.
Four-time All-Australian Franklin has joined Sydney, after booting 60 goals for the Hawks in 2013.
Coleman Medallist Jarryd Roughead led the way with 72 goals last year and the key forward isn’t concerned that he’ll be the focus of more defensive attention with Franklin gone.
“Not really,” Roughead said on Sunday.
“We showed in games last year where he (Franklin) didn’t play that we could all get along.”
Norm Smith Medal runner-up Jack Gunston booted 46 goals last year and the Hawks need him to repeat the dose.
Rioli, with 19 goals last season, is expected to be asked to boost that tally in 2014.
For a player who kicked 39 goals and earned All-Australian selection in 2012, Rioli’s form in defence in pre-season has been stunning.
The 177cm utility had 19 possessions, eight tackles and five rebound-50 against Brisbane and 20 touches at 85 per cent disposal efficiency against North Melbourne.
“He’s proved that he can play half-back as well,” Roughead said.
“That shows how good the versatility in the side is, with `Junior’ (Rioli) being able to play forward and back and other blokes being able to play a number of positions.
“Especially with the interchange cap coming in (120 rotations per side), it’s going to become more important each week.”
Roughead is unsure if he’ll have Rioli alongside him in the forward line and he’s not fussed about putting a figure on his own ambitions in front of the big sticks.
“If we can just play good consistent footy as a side, the number will take care of itself,” Roughead said.
“It’s not like you can try to repeat what happened last year because teams have chopped up all the visions of last year’s games and tried to get strategies on how to beat Hawthorn.
“We’ll go along fine.”
Hawthorn have a practice game against Melbourne on March 8 at Casey Fields, followed by a round-one clash with Brisbane in Launceston a fortnight later.