Hawthorn should take a mental edge into their next AFL clash with AFL arch rivals Geelong.
Mindful that the next instalment of their epic modern-day rivalry is likely just a fortnight away, Hawthorn and Geelong won’t be taking any risks on personnel in the final round of the home and away season.
The Hawks should take a psychological edge into that encounter – whether it happens in a qualifying final or later in the 2014 playoffs – after coming back from 31 points down at halftime to beat the Cats by 23 points at the MCG on Saturday night.
It was only Hawthorn’s second win in 13 matches against the Cats since their upset triumph in the 2008 grand final.
Important Hawks forward Jack Gunston rolled his ankle in the final quarter and defender Matt Suckling was subbed off at halftime with a sore knee, putting them in serious doubt for Friday night’s clash with injury-ravaged Collingwood.
The second-placed Hawks will be coming off two successive six-day breaks – and a round-21 trip to Perth – making it even more likely that coach Alastair Clarkson will err on the side of caution.
“Quite clearly the way we’ve gone about it is if blokes are sore, they don’t play – but if they recover pretty well than they do,” he said.
“We’re mindful of continuity for our players, just playing together and we think that’s a good thing, going into finals with your team reasonably settled, and all playing together.
“If guys are sore and they’re going to benefit from having a week off, then they won’t play.
“But it will only be that they’re injured and they can’t play.”
Unless Richmond can upset pacesetters Sydney in round 23, the Hawks and the Cats are almost certain to finish second and third, setting up another clash in a qualifying final.
Geelong coach Chris Scott is set to hold star midfielder Steve Johnson (sore foot) back another week to ensure he can take on the Hawks, rather than rush him in for the home clash against Brisbane next Saturday.
“We should be as clear as we possibly can with the situation with Steve,” said Scott.
“We’re not playing ducks and drakes.
“He is not seriously injured insofar as we know and the expectation is that he will play the first week of the finals.
“What happens between now and them will be based around getting him as good as possible for that game.”
Inexperienced key forward Shane Kersten (hamstring) and first-year player Brad Hartman (groin) picked up injuries against Hawthorn.