Hawks to show if AFL lessons learned

The AFL grand final will show how well Hawthorn have learned the lessons that West Coast hammered into them.

Saturday’s premiership decider will be the third time in less than two months that the two sides have clashed.

In round 19, the Hawks had a morale-boosting win over the Eagles in Perth as the finals loomed.

But on September 11, the Eagles proved they were premiership contenders by dismantling the reigning premiers in their Domain Stadium qualifying final.

The 32-point margin did not reflect West Coast’s domination of the match.

While the Eagles were outstanding, Hawthorn were a shadow of the powerhouse that had made the past three grand finals for two premierships.

It was a case of back to the drawing board, and quickly.

The Hawks then roared back to life with strong finals wins over Adelaide and Fremantle.

But captain Luke Hodge said the past fortnight counts for something only if Hawthorn show they have been good students in the wake of that qualifying final disaster.

“In every game of football you learn things, especially when you lose,” Hodge said.

“You look at things a little bit more closely and we had to do that, because the performance we put out … wasn’t up to a final.

“Since then, our two games post the West Coast game have been a lot better, the intensity has been there.

“But that all means nothing if we haven’t learned from the first final.”

A week before that qualifying final loss, Hodge had his own harsh lesson when he was caught drink driving after a social function.

He was fined, lost demerit points and was at the centre of a media storm.

Hodge improved in the second half against the Eagles after a quiet start.

The two-time Norm Smith medallist then led his side superbly with a best-afield game in the semi-final win over Adelaide.

He also starred in the preliminary final win over Fremantle, but landed heavily late in the game.

A quiet couple of days at training earlier this week predictably sparked grand final week speculation that Hodge was in doubt.

But Hodge denied he had a hamstring problem, saying he was only being managed through the week.

“I pulled up fine,” said Hawthorn’s warrior.

“I guess … everyone has a different routine post-games and mine was a bit more low-key earlier in the week.

“But our plan was to train Thursday and be fine for Saturday – I should be right.”

Hodge disregarded Saturday’s forecast hot temperature as a potential factor, saying it would be the same for the Eagles.

The Hawks made one change, bringing back forward Jack Gunston from injury and dropping unlucky Billy Hartung.

“You have to go into grand finals with fully-fit players – you can’t be looking after anyone,” Hodge said.

“That’s what we have.

“The heat – both teams are going to feel it.

“It doesn’t really matter, the contest is going to be hot no matter what the weather (forecast) says.”

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