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Alastair Clarkson sees some of the Cats about Mark Thompson's Essendon

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says he can already see some signs Essendon is playing a game like the Geelong teams coached by his opposite number Mark Thompson.

The Hawks, who take on their long-time rival at Etihad Stadium on Friday night, were impressed by the way the Bombers, being coached by Thompson for the first time last week, picked North Melbourne apart.

But he said Hawthorn’s opponents would also have to adjust to a new-look forward structure minus Lance Franklin, and backed his premiership team to cope with a potential height deficiency in defence against Essendon key forward pair Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher.

''The Essendon [we] have played in the past is probably going to be a little bit different from how they’re going to play [now],'' Clarkson said. ''I don’t think many had seen Essendon play a game like they did last week, so are we going to get the same as that?

''It’s a different coach this time around with 'Bomber', and already we’re seeing some subtle changes to the way they go about things. There’s a little bit of the old Bomber and Geelong in [the] way they want to set up and play, so it will be a very different Essendon.

''But we’re different as well. 'Buddy' is no longer there, and we’re going to structure up differently as well, so that will take a while for opposition sides to work out.''


Clarkson conceded his defence faced a significant height disadvantage against the Bombers, with Norm Smith medallist Brian Lake still out suspended, and fellow key talls Ben Stratton and Ryan Schoenmakers still unavailable. But he said the Hawks had been dealing with similar odds ever since the retirement of 2008 premiership player Trent Croad, and could do so again.

''I reckon nearly every game we’ve gone into in the last four years since 'Croady' retired really at the end of 2009, we’ve gone in as an undersized defence, and we’ve been able to cope OK with that,'' Clarkson said.

''We’ll go in with an undersized defence again tomorrow night, so that’s no different for us, and we’ll do our best. If we can get the ball to ground level and stop those marking players catching it, then we’ll give ourselves a chance to be able to defend their inside 50s, but if they mark the ball and kick goals, it’s going to be hard work for us.''

An obvious key to Hawthorn’s plan of attack against Essendon will be to deny the Bombers the sort of easy possessions they were allowed against the Kangaroos. Essendon racked up an unusually high 299 uncontested possessions and 146 uncontested marks against North.

''You go into every game not wanting to let the opposition get 100 uncontested marks, let alone 150 or whatever Essendon had last week,'' Clarkson said. ''They’re a pretty polished side, and if you give them that much ball, they’re going to control the contest.

''They dominated all aspects last week, the contested footy, the uncontested footy, the clearances, the inside 50s, the whole kit-kaboodle. If we allow them to have that much access to the footy this week, then we’re probably going to come out with a loss against our name. We need to try to ensure that we have our fair share of the footy, and if we do then we give ourselves a great chance to win.''