Hawthorn will unveil their 2013 premiership flag in Launceston against Brisbane Lions under the stewardship of Justin Leppitsch for the first time.
Thankfully for Justin Leppitsch, every week as an AFL coach won’t be as hard as this one.
Facing the reigning premiers in Launceston playing under their 2013 pennant for the first time is far from a dream debut as Leppitsch could surely imagine.
With the odds stacked firmly against his young Lions side, the new Brisbane senior coach says no matter what other people say, he’s ready for Hawthorn.
“I don’t have any nerves,” he said.
“I guess it’s an exciting time but I’ll try and save my emotions for the coaching box. Hopefully they’re all positive ones.”
Brisbane have been bullish in the lead-up to their season opener, with vice-captain Tom Rockliff saying round one was the best time to get the Hawks.
Despite Hawthorn missing seven of their grand final winning side, the reality is Brisbane haven’t beaten the Hawks since 2009 and few are tipping them to start this weekend.
Hawthorn, shooting for a third-straight minor premiership in 2014, have spent their off-season well if their pre-season results are anything to go by.
Three thumping wins have come alongside the blooding of another set of youngsters into the Hawthorn system.
The biggest pre-season victory was over the Lions in the NAB Challenge, though coach Alastair Clarkson dismissed that win as against a “under 21 side”.
He said his team wouldn’t have any trouble getting motivation after their premiership win – saying every match was motivating in its own right.
“The game is a mental challenge, whether you’re the reigning premiers or the wooden spooner,” he said.
“There’s plenty of challenges in our game as just when you think you’re going along ok a big bear jumps on your back.”
Tim O’Brien – wearing the 23 guernsey vacated by Lance Franklin’s defection to Sydney – and Derrick Wanganeen will make their AFL debuts in Launceston while ex-St Kilda ruckman Ben McEvoy will play his first match in the brown and gold.
Perhaps the biggest inclusion for Hawthorn is the return of defender Matthew Suckling, who last played in the Hawks’ losing 2012 grand final.
For the Lions, joining Leppitsch as AFL debutants is top draft pick James Aish, Lewis Taylor and Michael Close.
Former Geelong ruckman Trent West will also debut for the Lions after being named at centre half-forward.