Date: June 29 2012
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is preparing for a goal barrage from Carlton's small forwards in tonight's vital AFL clash at the MCG.
The ninth-placed Blues have placed a heavy load on speedy little men Eddie Betts (26 goals) and Jeff Garlett (15) in the absence of injured big man Jarrad Waite.
Blues coach Brett Ratten has already hinted he hopes he can create a mismatch with his small forwards in Hawthorn's defensive zone. Clarkson said yesterday he was wary of the damage Betts and Garlett could cause.
''They're super little players. They're very, very dangerous in the way that Carlton are structuring up,'' Clarkson said.
''Particularly without Waite in the side, they carry even more responsibility in terms of their goalkicking power and presence up forward.
''Every side in the competition that plays Carlton has got to be mindful of those two guys.
''Also Andrew Walker is a terrific player. All three of those guys were 40-goal or 50-goal players for them last year.''
The sixth-placed Hawks are equal-premiership favourites with competition leaders Collingwood, while Carlton (6-6) is facing a losing streak of eight matches against Hawthorn.
Clarkson says the Hawks (8-4) showed good form in their recent wins over North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and Brisbane before last week's bye.
But the 2008 premiership mentor has been impressed with Carlton's efforts in losses to Geelong and West Coast by a combined margin of just 22 points in rounds 11 and 12 before a bye in round 13.
''We enjoy these big games,'' Clarkson said. ''We expect a really fired-up Carlton side. They'll be getting a fired-up Hawthorn side too.
''Even though they haven't won many games and so many people just base it on the win-loss, their form over the last couple of games has been pretty good.
''Irrespective of ladder positions, these two sides always have a decent crack at each other.''
While he was wary of Carlton's mosquito fleet of forwards, Clarkson claimed the fitness of Blues skipper Chris Judd wasn't his concern. The dual-Brownlow medallist had only 12 disposals against West Coast amid reports of back/neck soreness.
''We don't focus too much on one particular player,'' Clarkson said. ''We need to worry about the whole Carlton side.''
Luke Hodge trained with the main group yesterday with strapping on his knee.
The Hawks are yet to decide if their skipper will resume at AFL or VFL level in the next couple of weeks. AAP
AFL Round 14: Carlton v Hawthorn at the MCG, 7.50pm. TV time: Live on 7 mate.
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