We’d handle it better now, say Hawks
Hawthorn have vowed that if they win an 11th AFL premiership on Saturday there will be no repeat of the decline which followed their 2008 flag triumph.
The Hawks caused a major boilover when they defeated hot favourites Geelong four years ago – but visions of a dynasty turned to illusions.
Instead, it was the vanquished team which emerged dominant as the Cats claimed two of the following three flags.
Hawthorn crumbled in the years immediately following their premiership, finishing ninth in 2009 and seventh the following year.
This year’s grand final appearance follows a re-assessment which led them to a preliminary final last year.
Hawks vice-captain Jordan Lewis believes he understands why the club spent those two years in the football wilderness.
He said coach Alastair Clarkson’s defensive masterstroke, colloquially known as “Clarko’s Cluster”, had been worked out by his rivals, and specific players needed to be recruited to cope with a quickly evolving code.
“The game changes from year to year and we probably hung onto 2008 in the way we played a year too long,” Lewis said.
“And then we changed a few things and we brought players in, some outside speed in, and I think we’ve got the right mix at the moment to really challenge.”
The reversal in fortunes has been aided with the recruitment of several important players from rival AFL clubs.
“You can only do so much through the draft system and then you’ve really got to look elsewhere to try and find the specific player that you need at that time,” said Lewis.
“Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson and David Hale are three that really stand out, and even Jack Gunston as a new inclusion this year is hopefully the final piece of the puzzle.”
Fellow vice-captain Jarryd Roughead said he was forced into a reality check after winning a premiership four years ago as a young forward, then spending years as the club found its way back.
“We were pretty young back in ’08 and thought the world was at our feet,” Roughead said.
“We really didn’t appreciate it as much as we will if we are lucky enough to win on Saturday.”
Lewis said Hawthorn had to be more ruthless against Sydney on Saturday after being criticised for a lack of commitment at certain stages during the narrow preliminary final win over Adelaide.
“Looking back on the game, that assumption is probably right,” Lewis said.
“There were a few instances early … I know one where I went back with the flight and probably didn’t mark a ball that I should have marked.
“But we’ll learn from the experience – we can only go out there this week and try and rectify that.”
Captain Luke Hodge has been in quarantine with a virus but Lewis said he would be fit to play against Sydney.
“Absolutely we’ve get no doubt that he’ll play,” Lewis said. “He had the sniffles over the weekend.
“But he looks great this morning and he’s ready to go.”
But Hawks defender Brent Guerra ruled himself out on Tuesday, admitting he had run out of time to recover from a hamstring injury sustained in the last home and away round.© AAP 2013