Undefeated Albury handed Wangaratta Rovers a lesson in stoppage work in posting a 37-point win on Saturday.
Billed as a blockbuster, it was a fizzer with the visitors not nailing their first goal until the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, before falling 13.17 (95) to 8.10 (58).
Former AFL players Anthony Miles and Daniel Cross were excellent in the clinches, both racking up 20-plus disposals.
"We got belted around the contests, they had some experience in there with 'Milesy' and 'Crossy' and they use their wings really well, (Riley) Bice and Fletcher Carroll," Rovers' coach Daryn Cresswell explained.
"We spoke about the stoppages, we just didn't execute, 'Milesy' gets back as a quarterback really well and we knew that, not having (Matt) Jones, (Tyler) Roos and Cal McFadden around the ball probably didn't help.
"Their willingness and ability to work hard away from the stoppages is pretty evident, I felt we got out-worked and out-enthused."
In an underwhelming first half, from both teams, Albury carried a 4.11 (35) to 0.8 (8) lead into the break.
There were no excuses for the inaccuracy on an ideal winter's day, apart from possibly rustiness in just the second game back from a month-league interleague and COVID break.
The Hawks simply had to kick the first goal in the third quarter, so when lively forward Bice took a high-flying mark near the goal, the match was over.
"Apart from the last 10 minutes where they kicked a couple of goals, I reckon our ability to stay focused (was impressive)," Albury co-coach Luke Daly revealed.
Bice kicked three goals to continue his breakthrough season, while Jacob Conlan had a strong battle against former Victoria Country defender Tyson Hartwig, kicking four goals.
The Hawks had two standouts in Sydney-based Ryan Hebron and Gold Coast product Tom Thynne.
The latter has played some good football since joining the Hawks this season, but he announced himself as a player to watch with a 24-disposal game.
Hebron (23 touches) racked up double figures in intercept marks and also set up the Hawks' first goal with a lovely kick to Raven Jolliffe, who grabbed three majors, along with Tristan Lenaz.
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"We butchered the footy, the stats were they had 15 scoring opportunities from turnovers," Cresswell pondered.
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