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Cats face a tall order to claim Hawks' scalp again

Date

Jesse Hogan

Geelong's Trent West, left, pictured battling with Carlton's Robert Warnock, will miss the clash against Hawthorn.

Geelong's Trent West, left, pictured battling with Carlton's Robert Warnock, will miss the clash against Hawthorn. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

HAWTHORN v GEELONG
MCG, 7.50pm

HAWTHORN'S bolstering of its ruck depth for tonight's match against Geelong has coincided with the reigning premier having to field its weakest ruck division for the year.

The boosts provided to the Cats by the return of Matthew Scarlett (suspension) and James Podsiadly (injury) have been undermined by the loss of first-choice ruckman Trent West with a knee injury.

This will leave Andrew Mackie as the Cats' only player to have played every match this season.

In West's absence, Geelong will have to primarily rely on mature-age recruit Orren Stephenson to compete against Max Bailey, the fit-again David Hale and possibly even Jarryd Roughead.

Geelong lost midfielder Joel Corey to a hamstring strain, as expected, and dropped Cameron Guthrie. Livewire forward Steve Johnson was named despite suffering concussion last Saturday. Hale's inclusion for Shane Savage was the Hawks' only change.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is not liberal with self-congratulation, so for him to volunteer yesterday that Hawthorn had improved this year was either out of character or simply stating the obvious.

Much focus on tonight's match at the MCG has been on the Hawks' inability to beat the Cats in eight attempts since their 2008 grand final triumph.

But Clarkson said he was more concerned with gauging his second-placed team against the Cats, at present sixth on the ladder, with an eye to the finals.

"The big difference is the sides are just so different," he said yesterday. "We're a very, very different side even to the side that played [Geelong] in round two this year. We don't put any great weight on [our losing streak to them].

"We were really competitive last year . . . but the whole football world probably knew Geelong and Collingwood were the better sides in the competition. This year, we're wanting to test whether or not we've actually made up some ground.

"The ladder positions at the current time suggest we have; our clashes with Geelong haven't suggested that yet. We need to get a scalp . . . hopefully that's tomorrow night."

Hawthorn's desire to prove its premiership mettle did not sway it to recall Lance Franklin. The gun spearhead

has missed the Hawks' past three matches because of a hamstring injury and will miss his fourth tonight.

Clarkson said he was hopeful the Coleman Medal leader's stint on the sidelines would not extend to five next weekend.

"He's nearly there but we just want to make sure he's completely over this little niggle," he said.

Hawthorn's two-point loss to Geelong in round two was one of only two instances this season, alongside Richmond's round-16 capitulation to Gold Coast, where the team that led in all three of contested possessions, disposal efficiency and tackles did not also win the match.

Clarkson said the changes in both teams since round two, for both personnel and game style, had been significant.

"I don't want to blow our own trumpet . . . we've just been happy with even the contribution we've had from a whole heap of players," he replied when asked how the Hawks had improved since their previous meeting with the Cats. "We've been able to cope really well without [Luke] Hodge for the bulk of the year and 'Buddy' [Franklin] certainly over the past three weeks. To be able to have an even contribution [despite those injuries] is probably the most pleasing thing."

With Hawthorn on an eight-match winning streak but now having to face recent nemesis Geelong — whose tackling ferocity has conspicuously surged in its past two matches — Clarkson said he expected the match tonight would be a "fierce battle".

11 comments

  • Be on your best behaviour, Clarkson - you're playing the Geelong under 9's.

    Commenter
    Jenz
    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 8:40AM
    • No need to worry their Jenz, Clarko won't be punching holes in walls, but his Players will be punching holes in the Midfield and Geelong's Back Line....at the end of the day he will be a very Happy man!!!

      Commenter
      General Soreness
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 10:51AM
    • Jenz...Dude...When you've had a list full of geriatrics for the past few years....at some point you've got to introduce your under 9's. Its amazing how the Cat supporters are mentioning injuries when they've been the luckiest team over a long stint when it comes to injuries, thats helped them secure 3 Premierships in 5 years! Cat Fans your time has come!!!!

      Commenter
      Hawka2012
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 1:11PM
  • Making excuses already Jenz......

    Commenter
    Will Turner
    Location
    willsot@bigpond.net.au
    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 11:21AM
    • I am a cats fan, with West and Corey out we'll be smashed in the midfield all night.

      Commenter
      John
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 11:21AM
      • @J0hn I doubt that very much. Any team with J.Selwood, J.Bartel, S.Johnson & J. Kelly in the middle wont be smshed by anyone! Should Be a ripper game though.

        Commenter
        creepy crawler
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 12:54PM
      • John,

        So you have no faith in Bartel, Selwood, Johnson and Chapman! Come on....these guys have done it for you for so many years! Why the excuses?

        Commenter
        Hawka2012
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 1:13PM
    • In round 18 this year the average age and games played of Hawthorn players was 25 years and 22 days and 102 games. The average age and games played by Geelong players was 25 years 182 days and 111 games.

      No need to imply Geelong are the only ones blooding youth in this game Jenz.....

      Commenter
      Jack
      Location
      willsot@bigpond.net.au
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 11:31AM
      • Jack, averages are misleading - I could play a 11 three year olds and 11 forty-seven year olds in a team and the average age would be 25. Key question is how many players Hawthorn are playing aged about 23-28 and with 70+ games versus the same for Geelong. Think you will find Geelong has many younger, less exprienced players in the team.

        Commenter
        TGIF
        Location
        Melbounre
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 1:19PM
      • TGIF these stats are not misleading. Last week Hawthorn played 10 players with less than 70 games experience. Geelong played 9. That means Hawthorn has more younger less experienced players in the team.

        Commenter
        Jack
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 2:29PM

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