Howe makes case for finals recall as Hawks hang on in VFL thriller

Hawthorn tagger Daniel Howe has made a successful return through the VFL from suspension, while James Frawley and James Sicily will continue to press their case for a finals recall at training early this week.

Howe began on the bench in the Box Hill Hawks' 11-point extra-time win against Port Melbourne in an elimination final at North Port Oval on Saturday but was particularly instrumental in the final term and through the two periods of extra time. He has not played at the AFL level since he was suspended for five weeks for two separate incidents against Carlton in round 18.

Howe has been given a number of important run-with roles by coach Alastair Clarkson and will be in contention to face Richmond in Thursday night's qualifying final at the MCG, where he could spend time on Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin. He had 21 touches when the teams met in round three.

Hard-working defender Taylor Duryea, who has not played at the senior level since the loss to Brisbane in round 17, was one of the Hawks' best, while half-back Conor Glass, who has played four senior matches this season, including round 22 against St Kilda, was industrious. Veteran Brendan Whitecross was also busy in the slippery conditions.

"Unfortunately, our turnovers brought them (Borough) back into the game and that's when they started to get a flow on but we rectified that after the fourth quarter," Whitecross said.

Port Melbourne had trailed by five goals at the main break but booted four goals to one in a spirited third term. They then trailed by 17 points midway through the final term but booted the next four goals to enjoy a six-point lead with 25 seconds remaining. However, the Hawks were able to rebound from half-back, leading to Oliver Hanrahan finding room out the back and dribbling through the game-tying goal as the quarter expired.

The Hawks led by 10 points after the first period of extra time and were able to hang on.

They opted to not give Frawley (back) and Sicily (wrist) a run in the VFL but, should they return on Thursday, will have key roles to play curbing a Tigers' forward line that has been humming.

Regardless of the Hawks' results in this finals campaign, president Jeff Kennett insists they have another prosperous decade ahead because of the young talent which has emerged in the past two seasons.

The Hawks missed the finals last year, suggesting their dynasty of earlier this decade which reaped three straight premierships from 2013 was over. But under the crafty coaching of Clarkson and a strong development and recruiting program, they have rebounded.

At a time when clubs such as Carlton and the Gold Coast are on a long rebuild, Kennett said the Hawks – who could easily have slipped – could expect another "wonderful" run.

"I must admit, regardless of how we finish the year, I am very confident that our AFL team is in for another wonderful five to ten years," he said.

"The young men that we have recruited over the last 24 months are growing in ability, game on game. Not only do they have good values, they are great athletes, and they have the skills and hunger to succeed. Led by our more experienced players, we have a cocktail that is very exciting."

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