AFL’s Hawks yet to convince coach
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson wants his team to perform against top-class AFL opposition before declaring them back to their best.
The pre-season premiership favourites’ 19.21 (135) to 11.4 (70) win over Brisbane at a wet MCG on Sunday was heartening.
Clarkson enjoyed the constant pressure his side applied, with a mammoth 96 tackles and their dominance in general play, taking the ball into attack 30 more times than the Lions.
A five-goal haul to Lance Franklin, who took his AFL-leading tally to 43 majors for the season, put cream on the cake.
Adding to the positive mood, midfielder Jordan Lewis will return from suspension against Carlton following next weekend’s bye, with captain Luke Hodge a chance to return from injury.
The fifth-placed Hawks’ 115, 46 and 65-point wins over North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and the Lions in the past three rounds have Lions coach Michael Voss certain they will play a big part in the finals.
But Clarkson is not yet convinced.
“If we’re going to be a great side at the end of the year then we need to make sure that we do it against some of the more seasoned campaigners,” he said.
“With no disrespect to North Melbourne, Brisbane or Port Adelaide, there wasn’t a scribe in the land that had them as seriously challenging for the flag.
“We’ve done really well the last three weeks, we’ve been pleased with our intent, but it’s yet to be proven we can do it against the very, very good sides.”
Clarkson said Hodge, who has played just two games this year due to calf and knee injuries, had recovered well enough to return, but might spend more time building fitness.
“We’ll train him a little bit more over the next week to 10 days, then see what we do in regard to the Carlton game and then GWS the week after,” he said.
Earlier in the round, West Coast took top spot after holding out Carlton 10.19 (79) to 10.9 (69) at Patersons Stadium on Thursday night.
The Blues’ third straight loss left them outside the top eight.
Second-placed Adelaide trail the Eagles only on percentage, after a hard-fought 17.13 (115) to 16.15 (111) victory over St Kilda at AAMI Stadium on Friday night.
The Saints remained in eighth spot, ahead of Carlton, Richmond and Fremantle on percentage.
Inaccuracy meant Richmond and North Melbourne both faced tight scrapes against the expansion clubs on Saturday.
The Tigers downed Greater Western Sydney 11.20 (86) to 12.2 (74) in front of just 7,538 fans at a wet Skoda Stadium.
The Kangaroos won 11.21 (87) to 12.8 (80) against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, despite Suns skipper Gary Ablett’s 42 touches and four goals.© AAP 2013