James Sicily didn’t exactly keep a low profile on return from his second suspension of the season but Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson reiterated that the sometime Hawk bad boy was on a “learning curve”.
Sicily was best afield from defence with 29 disposals and 14 marks at the MCG on Saturday as Hawthorn beat Essendon to record their fifth win from seven starts this year.
It was his first game back from a one-match ban for treading on the calf of North Melbourne’s Shaun Atley. Sicily, whose fiery nature has been an issue in previous years, had earlier been suspended for kneeing Geelong’s Joel Selwood in round two.
Sicily’s showing on Saturday was capped by a third-quarter goal from beyond 50 metres. The shot came after Bomber Joe Daniher gave away a 50-metre penalty.
Sicily cheekily offered Daniher a “low five” after kicking the goal. Daniher declined to engage.
Neither Clarkson nor Essendon coach John Worsfold said they saw the incident, but Clarkson said it was clear Sicily was a very important player for the Hawks.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the competition now that doubts the capacity he’s got as a player. He’s really important for us, as we saw today,” Clarkson said.
“We’re much better off having him on the field than in the grandstand. He knows that, I’ve spoken to him about it. It’s just a learning curve for him.
"Hopefully he learns from his misdemeanours and continues to progress as a player.”
James Sicily sings the song on Saturday.
Clarkson spent periods of the game on the interchange bench, citing the need to communicate with his younger players.
“I was down there every quarter from about midway through the quarter. That’s the way that we want to coach it at the minute. We’ve got a lot of younger players in our side.”
Clarkson said his team had followed their game plan early but was pleased with the way they fought back after conceding four of the first five goals.
“It was a tough grind,” he said.
“It was really good for our coaching staff and really good for our playing group to be challenged and try to find a way to win. We were giving the ball back to Essendon far too easily in the first half. "
Ricky Henderson (gastro) and Will Langford (back spasms) were both late withdrawals from the Hawks. Henderson should be available to face Sydney on Friday night but Langford will need to be assessed.
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