Hawthorn AFLW captain Tilly Lucas-Rodd has been a shining light for the club in its opening two games. (Photo: Hawthorn FC)

Hawthorn’s recent 53-point defeat to St Kilda was a costly one on multiple fronts, with experienced duo Tamara Luke and Louise Stephenson going down with season-ending injuries. However, the side will be looking to reset ahead of a clash with Richmond on Sunday afternoon.

Just like the Tigers, the Hawks are yet to register their first win of their campaign. As one of four expansion sides, they boast one of the youngest line-ups in the AFLW competition.

The losses of Luke (ruptured ACL) and Stephenson (fractured ankle) to significant injuries in the early stages of last weekend’s match proved to be a cruel blow to a developing side.

Speaking to media on Thursday, Hawthorn coach Bec Goddard explained the impact of the injuries on the playing group. 

“I think there was a definite sense of sadness in the changerooms at the end of the game, and even during the game when Tam and Lou were able to come back to the bench,” Goddard told media. 

“But true to Tam and Lou’s character, they’ve put on a really amazing face as the week’s gone on. Lou’s had surgery now. Tam goes in in a couple of weeks once the swelling in her leg goes down.”

With both players being members of the Hawks leadership group, their wealth of experience will likely be sorely missed. 

However, Goddard is prepared to adapt to these new challenges, citing the opportunity for others in the squad to gain exposure to AFLW. 

“In terms of what it does to our list now, it gives opportunity for other players to come and have a crack at the AFLW level,” Goddard said. 

“We’re an expansion club, with a really young list and we’ll try and spread our experienced AFLW players across the field to support those players when they make their start in AFLW.”

Earlier this week, Melbourne defender Libby Birch floated the need for a medical substitute to be introduced in the AFLW. After Round 2 alone, six ACL injuries have already come to pass. 

Goddard agrees with Birch’s proposal and sees no reason why it can’t be implemented. 

“I think that would be a really helpful rule,” the coach said.

“We have three emergencies on stand-by on game day, and to have the ability to use one of those players to make sure that we can run the game out, I think that would be a really useful thing going forward.”

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Whilst Richmond and Hawthorn will officially meet for the very first time in AFLW this weekend, the two teams did face each other during a practice match last month. 

Played at the MCG, it was Richmond which ran out 44-point winners, restricting the Hawks to a single goal on the day.  

Reflecting on that encounter, Goddard says that it served as a great chance for her side to test themselves against a Tigers outfit which boasts some of the best midfielders in the competition. 

“It was a real opportunity for our young players in Jasmine Fleming, Charlotte Baskaran, Lucy Wales and Mackenzie Eardley to get a real taste of what it’s like to play against some of these amazing players in Monique Conti, Ellie McKenzie and the Hosking sisters,” the coach explained.

“We’re really looking forward to putting our best team forward this weekend and having another crack against Richmond. We know the way they want to try and play, and they’re a really good team that’s looking for their first win as well.

“We’ve had some progress over the last couple of weeks of what we’ve seen in our team and we’re looking to make more steps this weekend.”

One area that Hawthorn will be looking to address is its inability to convert inside 50 entries into scores. 

Despite winning both clearances and inside 50s last week, the Hawks only managed to kick 1.4 compared to the Saints’ 9.9.

In the hope of better capitalising on their inside 50 entries, Goddard has flagged adjustments to both structure and personnel in the forward half on Sunday.

“We’ve looked at the way our forward line is set-up and we’ll be making some changes to the way that we set up and to some personnel this weekend.”

The absence of Luke means that young ruck Lucy Wales will likely shoulder the bulk of the ruck work in the weeks to come. 

Goddard was impressed with the 19-year-old’s efforts on the weekend and is looking forward to her continued development. 

“I thought Lucy did an unbelievable job on the weekend after Tam came off the ground,” she said.

“What an opportunity to play an entire game and represent herself at all of the stoppages around the ground. She’s going to get better as each week goes by.”

Although the Hawks are yet to taste victory in season seven, the unearthing of 12 AFLW debutants is something Goddard draws great pride from.

“The way that we represented the club over the last two rounds, with our first home game last weekend, is something I’m really proud of.

“We look forward to continuing that as each week goes by and seeing the small wins in areas on the field on the journey to get the first win for the footy club.”

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