Taking two steps forward and one step back is frustrating Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell.
But despite not getting the wins on the board, he believes Hawks fans would like what they are seeing from players wearing the brown and gold jumper.
The Hawks have, in consecutive weeks, gone to the wire in games against finals contenders, only to fall just short.
They pushed Fremantle at Optus Stadium on Saturday, falling 13 points short, a week after losing to an in-form Collingwood by only four.
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The Hawks already have wins over Geelong and Brisbane and have close loses against Carlton (1 point), Melbourne (10) and Richmond (23).
However, despite the frustration, Mitchell can see the progress being made by his Hawks. It’s the new things popping up that are getting to him.
“I’m pretty frustrated,” he said after letting the Dockers come from behind to win.
“We did a lot of things well today. We’ve had some challenges across the course of the year, and today threw up some different ones.
“We actually won centre bounces for the first time for the year, but then they kick 4.4 against our centre bounces.
“We get the ball inside 50, 61 times, but we can’t put them away.
“A different set of challenges. I guess that’s to be expected with a growing group, but that doesn’t make it less frustrating for me.”
What may make it even more frustrating is Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir’s concession that the best side may not have left Optus Stadium with the four premiership points.
“We overused the handball; we were disjointed and had players down on form,” he said.
“We managed to fight our or way out of it. Our mindset changed at half-time. We were more prepared for a scrap.
“We wanted it a little too easy in the first half. We were most prepared to be more desperate in the second half.
“I don’t know we were the better team on the day, but we got the win and sometimes that’s what you have to do. It’s not perfect and not pretty. But good teams need to find a way to win.”
Jaeger O’Meara, Tom Mitchell, Conor Nash and Jai Newcome consistently sent the ball inside the Hawks forward line on Saturday.
However, with Mitch Lewis (knee) and Jack Gunston (ankle) sidelined with injuries, they were a undermanned in attack.
Chad Wingard looked dangerous again and kicked two goals, as did Darcy Moore and Luke Breust.
But the result could have been different if Lewis had been there. He leads the Hawks goalscoring this season with 27 goals and had kicked 15 goals in four weeks before this weekend.
Those 61 inside 50 entries is 11 more than Hawthorn has managed in any other game this season. Yet while they kicked 12.10 from their earned shots, the 82 points they scored was only their fifth best for the season.
However, only Brisbane, with 85 points, has kicked more against the Dockers this season than Hawthorn did on Saturday.
Again, another step forward and a positive for Mitchell to work on.
“Obviously, Mitch Lewis has been an important player for us and it would have been nice to have him there. When you go inside 50, 61 times, having your big key forwards are nice,” he said.
“I didn’t think we looked terrible in front of the ball. We were able to lock it in quite a lot of times, get some more front-half turnovers than we’ve had across the course of this season, and against a side who are very strong in that area themselves. We did own a bit more territory this week.
“And against a side like Fremantle, who are really difficult to score against – I think it’s the second highest score anyone has kicked against them. So, we did a lot right, but just not enough.
“I think you watch today’s game and you say, ‘Hawthorn are a team that you’d be proud to barrack for, because they have a go’.
“Certainly we’ve improved. We’ve lost the last two games in a much better manner than the week up in Darwin against Gold Coast.
“We would like to be winning more games.
“(Fremantle) had to play well to beat us. They had a little bit more polish, more game sense, and more nous in key moments of the game. But I couldn’t question our players.
“I thought they genuinely to a man left it all out there today. We’ll go into this well-earned rest … they deserve the break.”