Win and we are a game behind WCE, Sydney and Freo with the coveted the top two at the end of the season ensuring home finals in our hands. Lose, and we slip to three games behind Freo and two games behind both WCE and Sydney with the stark reality of a top 2 finish virtually gone. As well as having to worry about other teams challenging your top four spot.
Having to travel interstate in finals is never a recipe for success meaning this game is pivotal.
B:Ben Stratton, Brian Lake, Sam Mitchell
HB:Grant Birchall, Josh Gibson, Luke Hodge
C:Bradley Hill, Shaun Burgoyne, Isaac Smith
HF:Jordan Lewis, Ryan Schoenmakers, Luke Breust
F:David Hale, Jack Gunston, Paul Puopolo
FOL:Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels, Cyril Rioli
I/C:Matthew Suckling, Matt Spangher, Taylor Duryea, Billy Hartung
EMG:Will Langford, Angus Litherland, James Sicily
B:Lee Spurr, Luke McPharlin, Garrick Ibbotson
HB:Danyle Pearce, Alex Pearce, Stephen Hill
C:Paul Duffield, Nat Fyfe, Clancee Pearce
HF:Michael Barlow, Chris Mayne, Michael Walters
F:Zac Clarke, Matthew Pavlich, Hayden Ballantyne
FOL:Aaron Sandilands, David Mundy, Nick Suban
I/C:Matt Taberner, Tommy Sheridan, Lachie Neale,Matt de Boer
EMG:Tendai Mzungu, Cameron Sutcliffe, Jonathon Griffin
The biggest surprise for the Hawks was the omission of Will Langford. The youngster looked to be finding some form last week and his crash and bang style is perfectly suited for and in tight and tough contest that this match is likely to be. Plus, he would be a likely running mate for Nat Fyfe.
A late change with Langford coming in is likely
A big game always puts a focus on the opposition stars and how best to counter them. When the opposition has names like Nat Fyfe, Aaron Sandilands, Michael Walters, and arguably the most underrated player in the games history in Matthew Pavlich, the concern is very real.
Clarko's creed is to respect, rather than obsess.
In saying this, he will rarely tag, instead going head to head backing his players to come out on top. The oil in the ointment today is Nat Fyfe, a player of rare calibre. One can see Ben Stratton marking him when he is forward, but, will Clarko forsake going head to head to lock down on him in the mids?
My take is Liam Shiels with Isaac Smith lending occasional support in a switch hitting role. Locking down when needed and attacking the other way when the opportunity arises. With other players assisting by crunching him hard at every opportunity, very like the tactics employed against Dan Hanneberry in the Grand Final last year.
As always with Freo, key in controlling their peerless midfielders is limiting ruck colossus Aaron Sandilands influence. In the past, it has been an obvious directive to jump early into Sandilands putting him off and David Hale has had great success against him. Ben McEvoy's inclusion is not lost in this regard with it not surprising if a few massive knees accidentally on purpose connect with the Freo colossus thighs in ruck duels.
Ultimately, the midfield battles will decide the game. If Hawthorn, at the least match Freo in the mids it will allow them to exploit Freo's suspect backline that is badly missing Michael Johnson. A backline that is very accomplished marking big forwards, but not so clever against small, clever ones.
Game Highlight- Hill versus Hill
I love these two players, with both being vindicated jets that can slice teams to ribbons with their line-breaking ability. Brad has held the whip handle over older brother in past duels, and can he main the ascendancy in this huge game?
Freo, and a man named Cyril......
All Hawk fans would love seeing a sequel to this today
This little pit bull small forward has gone from the last picked in the 22 to being a pivotal part of the team. His defensive work is in the best in the AFL, and his attacking play has improved so much.
Once more, testimony to the recruiting genius of Graham Wright
Luke Hodge- 100th game Captained ( Cue Silent Awe- for no words give due homage )
Most are predicting a close contest, but, I cannot see Freo controlling our small forward and having enough forward class to trouble our backs
Hawks by 24