Hawks out to prove they’re still a cut above

Taylor Duryea is looking forward to playing his first game at the Gabba.
Taylor Duryea is looking forward to playing his first game at the Gabba.

THE last time Hawthorn played in Brisbane, Taylor Duryea was still attending Melbourne's Caulfield Grammar, cutting schoolmates' hair in his spare time.

That was April 2008.

Eight years on, the Hawks are finally back, with Duryea now 25 and an established Hawk having played 72 senior games, and collected two premiership medallions (2014-15).

"We're looking forward to this weekend," the hard-working small defender tells Australian Regional Media.

"I think for three quarters of the group, it's the first time we get to play on the Gabba.

"New ground, new challenge ... it's a bit of a first. It's exciting."

It's certainly been one of the peculiarities of the AFL draw, however, with games between the Hawks and Lions usually scheduled for Launceston.

"Brendon Whitecross got drafted in 2008. He's a Brissy boy and he hasn't gotten back," Duryea said of his teammate, currently confined to the reserves.

Back in 2008, the Hawks were under pressure to break a seven-match losing streak in the Queensland capital.

This time they are the three-time reigning premier under pressure to show they are still a force after succumbing to Sydney, leaving them in seventh place (6-3).

"There's always pressure on," Duryea, who was drafted in 2009, said. "Everyone wants to critique the performances and we've become accustomed to that the last four or five years.

"Whether it's the media or other teams coming for us, we know we're the hunted.

"And that's a challenge within itself; that every team wants to bring their best when they play you.

"We pride ourselves on being able to rise to the challenge more often than not.

"As much as we have been disappointing in a few games this year, we are in a better position than this time last year (5-4)."

If not for a few missed chances in front of goal, the Hawks could have been heading to Brisbane on the back of a hard-fought win.

"It wasn't the prettiest game to watch. It was a bit of a mistake-marred game," he said.

"They were able to capitalise more, and that was the disappointing thing, we had our chances, we were our own worst enemy at times.

"We were obviously up for the fight. The guys were up and about, we just didn't put any scoreboard pressure on which may have hurt us a little bit."


Taylor Duryea has been a constant in the Hawks' backline the last four seasons.
Taylor Duryea has been a constant in the Hawks' backline the last four seasons.

Duryea said the club was holding up well, dealing with off-field battles far more serious than those on it.

Among them of course is Jarryd Roughead's latest skin cancer fight.

After undergoing a biopsy this week, the popular Hawks' vice-captain will make the trip north to bunk in with best mate Jordan Lewis, who will play his 250th game.

"I'd say the guys have handled it quite well," Duryea said. "Looking after guys who might be feeling a bit down, and getting around Rough.

"Because he was around the club since the news broke, it kept it all pretty normal."

Then there were the charges laid against wingman Brad Hill this week for assault in January.

"Obviously it's a police and court matter, you just ask how he's going, concentrate on footy and be there as a mate," Duryea said.

Duryea, who grew up near Corowa on the NSW side of the Murray but played his first senior game of footy at Wahgunyah across the river in Victoria at age 15, has always been the consummate team man ... even cutting teammates' hair.

"It was something I did in boarding school … give blokes a bit of a trim up here and there," he recalled.

"Someone caught wind of that at the club, and so I used to cut all the younger blokes' hair because they were all trying to save a bit of cash.

"But, I haven't done that the last couple of years, which I'm very happy about."

The only thing the left-footer is cutting these days is a swathe through opposition forwardlines to set up Hawk attacks.

It's something he will try to do when finally getting the chance to step on to the Gabba.