Richmond, it was said, simply had to get over the line last Thursday night against Carlton, its psyche dented by too many demoralising season-opening losses to the Blues.

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That's questionable, given there are still 21 games left this season to retrieve any damage, but surely Hawthorn's clash with Geelong on Monday is no less important an occasion for the Hawks as was last week's for the Tigers.

It may sound strange of a side officially premiership favourite, with a list the envy of most rivals and brilliantly coached, but the Hawks go into the new season not only needing to break their run of nine straight losses to the Cats, but needing to make a sizeable statement.

Rightly or not, Hawthorn's 10-point grand final loss to Sydney in its last official outing has confirmed a popular impression of a team that can't clinch the deal when it counts. And that reputation has been founded largely on those losses to Geelong, seven of them by nine points or less, too many of those after the Hawks had set up what might have been game-winning leads.

But this game is about more than just the Cats. In a year in which there seems far more legitimate flag chances than usual, scope for further improvement will be crucial, and you do wonder whether there's more potential for that from the likes of West Coast, Fremantle, Collingwood, perhaps even a Sydney with the latter-season addition of Kurt Tippett, than from the Hawks.

While Brian Lake is a significant addition to the mix defensively, Matt Suckling's rebound is equally as significant a loss. In midfield, the drivers remain the names Mitchell, Sewell, Lewis and, of course, Hodge, who again goes into a season underdone.

You could argue that of Hawthorn as a whole, given its at-times lacklustre pre-season.

No one doubts Hawthorn is capable enough. But it needs to hit the high gears straightaway this time.