Geelong's Nathan Vardey rides Hawthorn's Brendan Whitecross to take a mark but drops the ball. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Hawthorn has paid a heavy price for its grand final berth with Brendan Whitecross suspected to have suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament late in Friday night's epic preliminary final win against Geelong.
Whitecross, 23, suffered a similar injury against Collingwood in the 2012 qualifying final. He spent most of the pulsating final term on the bench after his latest setback.
"We'll get that confirmed either tomorrow or Sunday, but whatever it is it's a serious enough injury for him to miss next week, so it's heartbreaking for Whitey and his teammates and our club if that’s the case," Clarkson said.
"But we'll wait and see what transpires over the next couple of days."
While the injury provided a sour note to a stunning victory, Clarkson was justifiably proud of his players after they came back from 20 points down at three-quarter-time.
"They got 20 points up when they kicked three quick goals in the last three or four minutes of the third term, but … we said to our players, 'just because they've got their noses in front now doesn't mean that we can't come back and have our moment in the sun'," Clarkson said.
"They just dug in and persevered … the boys dug deep and it was great to get the win in the end.
"It was a real heavyweight bout tonight in a sense … two really desperate sides going hard at it and we're really pleased that on this occasion we got our noses in front at the right time."
The Hawks did it without a meaningful contribution from star forward trio Lance Franklin, Cyril Rioli and Jarryd Roughead with only Franklin managing to kick a goal.
"I wouldn't think those guys would have shared one goal between them in too many games for the Hawks over the last six or eight years," Clarkson said.
"We weren't pleased with the way that we [kicked for goal] and we feel like we've got some improvement in our game, but all coaches think there's improvement – you never get utopia."
Franklin (elbow), Brent Guerra (corked leg) and Paul Puopolo (ankle) were among the other casualties of the bruising encounter, but Clarkson didn't hold any serious concerns over their availability.
As for the Kennett curse being consigned to history, Clarkson was more pleased to have made another grand final than to have got that particular monkey off his back.
"It's nice and romantic and it's a great topic of conversation for so many people around the country to speak about it, but the basic thing for us was that we worked really hard as a footy club all year to finish on top of the ladder," he said.
"We played really well in a qualifying final against Sydney and, despite it being a real arm wrestle tonight, we feel like from what we've been able to achieve over the course of the year that we really deserve a chance at a grand final."