Hardwick accepted that he had become too concerned with the cons of Ellis’ game.
“He’s had some challenges, there’s no doubt. The great thing about Brandon, the thing I love, is he accepts the areas he’s got to get better at,” Hardwick said.
“But also as a coaching group, I probably didn’t understand and back in his strengths enough. That was on me. To his credit, he’s gone on and is playing some wonderful footy. He’s playing his natural game, his ability to run and create, use the ball, mark, has just been really evident for me to see, which is really pleasing.”
Hardwick acknowledged his own vulnerability as a coach.
“I was probably looking at areas of his game, they’re not poor, but they’re probably below in some areas. But what I sort of forgot as a coach, and it’s really poor on my behalf, is that he’s great in a lot of areas. I’ve got to remind myself to look at those areas. Now we’re seeing the dividends of our coaching group backing him in,” Hardwick said.
“It’s a good reminder to all of us coaches.
“It happens from time to time, and at stages I’ve got to get better at catching myself doing it. I know when I’m at my worst, unfortunately, Brandon’s one of those guys, he’s really close to me, that cops it the most.”
Tigers spearhead Lynch meanwhile gave away a free kick during the third term after shoving Hawks defender Sicily. Hardwick had no major issue with the fiery Sicily, but called for umpires to be more lenient with such incidents.
“James is that sort of player,” Hardwick said.
“He’s an incredible talent, that kid, he’s a player I’d come to watch, I love the way he plays the game. He plays it to the line. I love that about our game. Do we need the umpire paying a free kick when Tom shoves him down? I don’t know. Let the guys play. Let them have a crack. At the end of the day they’ve been at each other from go to whoa. It’s nice to have a little bit of leniency every now and then. I thought it was a great contest.”
Hardwick was also full of praise for Dustin Martin, who starred with 37 disposals and two goals.
“Dusty, when you look back at the history of him, he probably starts the season a little bit slower, and then he starts to come into the game and starts to dominate. I thought he was outstanding, he looked really fast and quick around the clearances today.”
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson lamented his side’s lack of polish, but also the fact Hawthorn were again beset by injuries. Big men Ben McEvoy (ankle) and Mitchell Lewis (concussion) were both sidelined during the game and will be assessed in coming days, as will James Frawley, who was a late withdrawal with hamstring tightness.
Meanwhile former skipper Jarryd Roughead had just eight disposals and kicked a single goal for Box Hill against Richmond in the VFL on Sunday.
Daniel is an Age sports reporter.