Hawks want pre-finals lift-off

Everyone at Hawthorn agrees: it doesn’t matter where the premiers finish, if they don’t lift their game, there will be no historic fourth-straight AFL flag.

Coach Alastair Clarkson’s message was as abrupt on the final whistle of their win against North Melbourne.

It was a victory that ensures the Hawks head into round 22 on top of the ladder.

Given the league’s tightness, they could still finish as low as seventh.

Friday night’s blockbuster against West Coast – a replay of last year’s grand final – could determine whether the Hawks hit their long-held target of finishing in the top four.

Greater Western Sydney’s surprise last-gasp loss to the Eagles means four more premiership points seal the top-four deal for Hawthorn.

But there’s a greater issue at stake for Clarkson; lifting their form.

“We need to play better,” he said.

“I don’t think (the form shown against North Melbourne) is going to win us a key final or a grand final.

“It’s a long campaign. Our goal all along the way is to add up the wins, hopefully finish top four and then make sure we try to play our best footy in September.”

One area where Hawthorn need to find improvement is up front.

Clarkson’s side have reached triple figures just twice in their last eight matches.

Luke Bruest says the Hawks would need to “get close” to the 100-point mark to stay in contention for the history-making premiership.

“You’re going to have to kick that against good defences like Sydney (Swans) and those sort of teams,” he told radio station 3AW.

“The confidence is there that come September if we need to kick 100 points in a game we can still do that.”

Given all the talk of September, defender Grant Birchall admitted he was keen to get into the finals.

But the Tasmanian said the Hawks didn’t need to go far back in the memory for a reminder of their fallibility.

“We’re keen to get to finals but we’ve got two important games,” he said.

“We can’t afford to take the eye off the footy or it will happen like it did last week (against Melbourne).”

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