Hawks more determined and better prepared for September
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Hawthorn head into the AFL finals driven to atone for last year’s missed chance but believe that experience will help them better handle the emotions of finals football this time around.
The Hawks progressed to a semi-final showdown with North Melbourne last year after Lance Franklin kicked a goal with seven seconds left in the game to sink Adelaide at Telstra Dome.
But they were knocked out of the Premiership race by a more disciplined and determined Kangaroos team, despite being favoured to win.
Hawks captain Sam Mitchell admitted the team were still stung by last year’s finals effort as they prepared to face the Western Bulldogs in Friday night’s first qualifying final at the MCG.
“It was just one of those games (against North) where you look back and (think) it’s just such a missed opportunity,” Mitchell said.
“We were so excited and up the week before, we probably didn’t come down from the Adelaide game until Wednesday or Thursday and two or three days is not long enough to prepare for a final.
“We learned our lesson then and hopefully we won’t have to re-tread old ground.”
Coach Alastair Clarkson admitted North Melbourne had showed his side how to play tough finals footy last year but believed the emotional rollercoaster of last year would mean his team will enter this September better prepared.
“We had the exhilaration of winning one final in pretty unusual circumstances with Buddy (Franklin) kicking that goal right on the siren and the ecstasy of that victory,” Clarkson said.
“Then the absolute humiliation when we just couldn’t perform anywhere near the level we would have liked (against North Melbourne).
“To go through both those experiences in one finals series was really good for our group.”
Veteran midfielder Shane Crawford (knee) and ruckman Simon Taylor (soreness) will make their returns against the Bulldogs but defender Campbell Brown is in serious doubt after injuring his foot against Carlton on Saturday night.
“He (Brown) will need every minute of the next three or four days to get himself right for this game,” Clarkson said.
“But given the resilience of Browny and the way he recovers, I’d give him every chance to get up.
“… we’ll probably leave it even to Friday lunchtime to make a decision on whether he’ll play or not.”
Clarkson hoped his team’s attack, which features centurion goal-kicker Franklin and Jarryd Roughead, who has kicked 66 goals for the year, would stretch the Dogs defence but acknowledged the midfield battle was the key to his side’s fortunes.
The Bulldogs’ onball division was critical in their 32-point victory over the Hawks in round 10 at Aurora Stadium.
“They hunted us pretty well that day in Launceston,” Clarkson said.
“They beat us convincingly through the middle of the ground, at stoppages and in general play and if we allowed that to happen again then I dare say it will be the Doggies who will progress through to the preliminary final.
“But if we can at least match them in that area and give our forwards good supply, then we think we’ve got a formidable enough forward line … to kick a score to win the game.”© AAP 2013
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