Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was heartened by an individual aspect of West Coast’s upset win against Adelaide on Friday night.
West Coast stand-in ruckman Jonathan Giles was superb and Clarkson is hoping his side’s own ruck replacement Jack Fitzpatrick him when the Hawks strive to nail down a top four place against Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
Fitzpatrick, recruited from Melbourne this season after managing only 22 games in six years, replaces the injured Jonathon Ceglar to share the big man duties with experienced Ben McEvoy.
“We’ve always used our ruckmen in a 50-50 capacity. As you saw last night with Giles replacing (Nic) Naitanui, any player can come in and do a role for their side and that’s what we’re expecting from Fitzy,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson is also buoyed by the timely return of versatile key position player Ryan Schoenmakers on the eve of finals.
“They know our structures and understand how we play and it’s important that they come in and just do their little bit for the side,” he said.
“He (Schoenmakers) has missed a fair bit of footy, but over the last eight weeks he has been able to slowly build up and overcome that groin issue that he had.
“It’s a bit of the unknown, but what we do know is he brings a strong presence in our front half and he’s capable of doing some good things for us in the back half when we require him to.”
Schoenmakers and Jarryd Roughead – the latter sidelined all season due to cancer treatment – were the key forward targets in last year’s grand final triumph against West Coast.
“We haven’t had either of them for the whole year, so to have one back now is welcoming for us,” he said.
That footy is a funny game was not lost on Clarkson as he reflected on how his team feels about West Coast one week removed from a pantsing in the west.
“Strange thing, we hated the Eagles last week when they knocked us off and then loved them last night,” he said.
“It’s a strange situation with the final eight being so tight.
“You like to think you’re in control of your own destiny right the way through, but with our loss to West Coast last week, it was going to be tough to get a home final at the MCG.
“But if we can get a victory tomorrow, that goal we set ourselves at the start of the year is realistic.
“Playing interstate is a hard gig for anyone in the competition and we found that out last week.”