Hawks sweat on Smith fitness for AFL final

Hawthorn remain hopeful that Isaac Smith can recover from a knee injury in time for Friday night’s AFL qualifying final against West Coast.

The line-breaking winger flew to Perth on Wednesday with a small group of players, with the rest of the Hawks’ travelling party flying out on Thursday morning.

Smith strained ligaments in his left knee during Saturday’s win over Carlton and while coach Alastair Clarkson has been pleasantly surprised with his recovery so far, he said that he wouldn’t risk selecting him if there was any doubt over his fitness.

“He’ll do some training while we’re in Perth and we’ll make a call over the next 24 hours if he’s right to play,” Clarkson said from Melbourne airport.

“It will all be determined by how well he can move this afternoon. If he’s ok then we’ll make a call right there and then or if he’s not … we’ll just wait and see – we can’t determine that yet.

“We need to win a game of footy so we’re going to take our best team in, but we’re not going to take in blokes that aren’t quite right.

“So if he can’t prove his fitness then he doesn’t play – it’s pretty simple really.”

Smith is one of the few injury headaches Clarkson has heading into the finals series, allowing him to take a large contingent of players to Perth.

The tantalising clash pits the two most potent attacks in the AFL against each other with a home preliminary final on offer for the victor.

Hawthorn go in with the confidence of having beaten the Eagles on their home turf in round 19 but Clarkson said that wouldn’t count for much on Friday night.

In-form ruckman Nic Naitanui didn’t play in that match and the dynamic big man looms as a key factor.

“He’s part of that midfield that gives them really good supply so we need to compete really well in that part of the ground,” Clarkson said.

“If he has a significant influence on the game it’s going to make it really difficult for us to win.”

Luke Hodge will return to the side after a two-week suspension and the controversy over his drink-driving charge but Clarkson doesn’t feel like the skipper owes his team anything extra after a rugged fortnight.

“Mistakes are made throughout your life and he made one last Thursday night,” he said.

“But he’s addressed that with our footy club, our players and with (the media).

“We put that to bed on Monday.”

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