Eagles will want AFL redemption: Rioli

While Nic Naitanui’s heroics must tempt Hawthorn to narrow their focus, the Hawks are training to take on not one, or 22, but 40,000 West Coast Eagles in their blockbuster AFL clash on Friday night.

The grand final rematch comes at a crucial juncture in both clubs’ seasons.

Hawthorn must win to keep their minor premiership hopes alive, and to enjoy the benefits that come with a top of the table finish.

And for sixth-placed West Coast, the match provides a perfect platform to carry momentum and belief into a finals series that until recently, few thought they could impact.

While Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson believes every match until September is “just another home and away game”, the star of last year’s grand final, Cyril Rioli, is of no doubt as to the match’s importance.

“It’s very important. We definitely need to keep winning,” Rioli said, before suggesting the Hawks must silence the usually vocal Domain Stadium crowd.

“Their crowd is the number one thing,” he said.

“Playing over there on their home deck … it’s going to be a pretty hostile environment.”

The goalsneak also said he expected the Eagles to play with plenty of passion as a result of last year’s 46-point grand final loss, and a round two defeat by the same margin.

“They’re going to be after redemption as well so I’m tipping they’ll be firing.”

Hawthorn are employing a couple of old tricks to give themselves the best chance of a success at Domain Stadium.

They’ve narrowed the ground at their Waverley training base so they can practice narrow ball movement, and are sending a few senior players to Perth on Wednesday to aid with the acclimatisation.

But as the Giants learned on Saturday night, there’s little you can do to stop Nic Nat.

The fit-again ruckman left his mark with a scrambled goal to give the Eagles a one-point victory against a favoured GWS side.

Rioli admitted to watching the dying stages with his heart in his mouth.

“I actually was pretty nervous watching,” he said.

“He does some freaky things.

“He’s a very good player around the ground but especially in the ruck.

“The big boys will be trying to do everything they can to stop him doing what he wants to do.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to stop his run.”

Rioli himself was sporting a decent bandage on his left hand, but said he suffered the injury against Melbourne two matches ago and would play against the Eagles.

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