Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says the Hawks must break a frustrating pattern of inconsistency against St Kilda if they are to challenge for the top four this season.
The reigning premiers are yet to post back-to-back AFL wins this season, but are also yet to lose two games in a row with their roller coaster form leaving them seventh on the ladder after nine rounds with a 5-4 record.
“Right at the moment we’re in that band of teams that are threatening to do some good play and shift up the ladder but also threatening – if they continue with their trend line – to just sit in the middle part of the ladder as well,” Clarkson said on Saturday.
“We’re just looking to try and get two wins in a row – we haven’t been able to secure that this year for a variety of reasons.
“Sometimes it’s been good opponents and sometimes it’s been some not-so-good play by us, so we’re pretty keen to get two wins on the trot, but that’s not to dismiss how tough this game is going to be.
“St Kilda have been in really good form but been a bit like us too – in spurts they’ve been outstanding and in patches of their games they’ve been quite poor like us.”
The Hawks’ inconsistencies were on display in last week’s uneven performance that ultimately saw them prevail over Gold Coast.
They’ve worked hard to iron out those inconsistencies, but Clarkson said some poor results couldn’t be helped.
“Some of it’s just been misfortune … with (Brian) Lake and (James) Frawley being injured,” he said.
“It does significantly disrupt your back end, in particular, but also your whole structure throughout the course of the game when it happens early.
“We’ve had that happen twice out of our four losses, so there’s a little bit of misfortune attached but some of it has been patches of poor play where we’ve just allowed the opposition too many consecutive goals.
“We like to think we’re better than that and that we’re hopefully starting to correct it. We need to do so over the next few weeks to give ourselves a chance to win enough games to put ourselves in top four contention.”
Hawthorn made two changes ahead of Sunday’s twilight clash at Etihad Stadium with Jordan Lewis and Ryan Schoenmakers in for Daniel Howe (omitted) and Paul Puopolo (foot).
Clarkson said that a conservative approach had been taken with Grant Birchall’s ankle injury, with the important defender set to return after the bye.
The Saints sit in 14th spot on the ladder with a 3-6 record heading into round 10. Former Hawk Shane Savage will play against his old side after coming into the line-up along with Farren Ray and Seb Ross.