The reigning premiers have become the masters of the chicken wing, but not as we know it.
The infamous chicken wing tackle, in which a player locks an opponent’s arm behind the back so he can’t dispose of the ball, has been controversial due to the injuries suffered by those it has been inflicted upon.
North Melbourne’s Brent Harvey was chicken winged in 2009, suffering a dislocated elbow that saw him miss two months of footy, while Chris Judd was suspended by four games in 2012 for his tackle on Kangaroo Leigh Adams.
But the Hawks aren’t trying to hurt their opponents — except on the scoreboard.
North Melbourne champion David King declared it “fantastic” on Monday night’s On the Couch, stating that the footy world needs to recognise the tactic’s “brilliance”.
He credited players such as Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo who have used the tactic to help the Hawks become the AFL’s best forward half pressure side.
It’s these crafty small forwards that have the ability to take a handle, to really strip the ball and create the ultimate turnover,” King said.
“It’s in motion and at high speed. I know it’s frowned upon in terms of the AFL and the rule makers, but it’s so effective and it makes it so difficult to dispose of the ball.”
It’s similar to what many players are doing with many players able to escape tackles placed around the body, freeing their arms and disposing of the ball to a teammate.
By employing the chicken wing, the Hawks are using the key portion of the tackle — stopping the opponent from legally disposing of the ball — but not in ground ball situations, instead using it in fast, free play in an attempt to strip the ball.
“They don’t want to create a stoppage, they just want to knock the ball loose,” Gerard Healy explained.
By doing so they avoid contested ball situations, which they have famously struggled at in 2016, instead relying on their speed and skill to get the most out of chaotic play.
“And if you hold one of the arms, they can’t handball the ball,” King said.
“They’re not going to dispose of it correctly.”