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Hawks seek payback against Cats

Hawthorn is fiercely determined to seek payback for its 11-game losing streak against Geelong, even though the Kennett Curse was broken in the 2013 preliminary final.

Coach Alastair Clarkson says the pre-match message of last year's winning preliminary final will resonate again on Monday as another chapter in football's greatest modern rivalry is written.

While the clash at the MCG does not have the currency of a final, there is plenty of bragging rights on the line, not the least being the victor remaining the only unbeaten team after five rounds.

The Hawks, having surged home from a 20-point deficit at three-quarter time in last year's preliminary final, finally ended their losing streak against the Cats that had dated back to 2009, and went on to claim the club's 11th flag.

As the Hawks had a light training session at Waverley on Sunday, Clarkson indicated there was another edge to Monday's clash, with his team still smarting over that losing streak.

"We are well beneath where we would like to be in terms of the last 11 encounters we have had against this side. We have some ground to make up, as simple as that," Clarkson said.


"We rate ourselves a hell of a lot better than losing to the Cats 10 times or 11 times in a row. Then, we finally get one in the prelim final.

"It was nice to get, but we have some ground to make up. We are going to try to do that [on Monday] but it's going to take a period of time to try to make up some of that ground.

"We just weren't strong enough, tough enough or hard enough for long enough in key games against the Cats. That's why they have been such a great side over a long period of time. Despite us being the reigning premiers, we feel we have some ground to make up on some of the sides, like Geelong."

On the afternoon before last year's preliminary final, Clarkson gave what was to prove another famous speech to his players, this time with the help of a large packet of plain flour.

As detailed in Michael Gordon's book Playing to Win, Clarkson emptied the packet to form a thick white line of about five metres in front of his players in the club theatre.

He said he wanted his players, all of whom were "good lads" with "good values" to become, as Gordon wrote, "different people, like warriors going to battle, prepared to do whatever it takes - within the laws of the game - to secure victory".

Once the address was over, a poster "depicting a white line diagonally splitting a playing surface" was handed to the players for all to sign. They did so on the one side of the line.

On the day itself, Clarkson scribbled "It's time to hunt" on the whiteboard in the MCG dressingroom. Under the word perseverance, he wrote: "It's not a long battle. It's many short battles, one after another, after another, after another ... until they succumb."

While both sides will be without seven players from that final, Clarkson said these messages were still applicable.

"The message, in terms of crossing the white line, is for any battle that you go into against an opponent, not just that one against Geelong, and a similar thing [the] battle by battle [reference]," he said.

"It's probably more important against the Cats because if you don't take it battle by battle, then it can easily get away from you in a game. It's certainly pertinent against the Cats but it's no different to any side, really."

The Hawks have resisted recalling full-back Brian Lake despite the threat Cats' power forward Tom Hawkins presents. The Norm Smith medallist had his second game in the VFL on Saturday night.

Instead, fellow defender Ben Stratton returns, along with ruckman Ben McEvoy. Reigning Liston Trophy winner Mitch Hallahan, an inside-midfielder, will debut, having been a second-round draft selection in 2010.

"He [Hallahan] has done some hard yards. He came to us, his first couple of years, he had a lot of ankle trouble. He didn't get up and going for a couple of years but he has played some really good footy for the past 18 months," Clarkson said.

"We see this with the Cats too, with the Horlin-Smiths and these sort of guys, who have been around the fringes for a long time and now they are starting to emerge as really good players for the Cats. Our mix is a little bit the same.

"He is ready to play. He has been for some time. It's just been hard to get him into the midfield in our side but he has got his opportunity with Liam Shiels out of the side."

Sam Mitchell trained strongly and appeared to dismiss any concerns about the possible re-emergence of a calf complaint.

This looms as another intriguing contest, with both sides potent up forward - the Hawks average a league-high 128.5 points a game and the Cats a third-best 101.5 - while the Cats have the stingiest defence, conceding only 64.3 points a game. The Hawks have the sixth-best defence. Both have won 14 of the 16 quarters they have played.

"They rebound from defence better than any club in the competition. If we give them that supply, it's going to make it pretty tough for us," Clarkson said.