McEvoy, Stratton set to return for Hawks

Ruckman Ben McEvoy and defender Ben Stratton look certain to bolster Hawthorn for the AFL qualifying final against Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.

McEvoy, sidelined with back soreness, and Stratton, out with a chest muscle injury, joined the Hawks’ main training session at Waverley Park on Tuesday.

“They should be fine. They’re out here today and I’m sure they’ll get through OK,” backman Josh Gibson said before the start of the week’s most important workout.

“They’re both really important pieces in the cog.

“We’ve still managed to play good footy without them, but getting them back will definitely help.

“We’ve missed Strats’ experience. He has played a lot of footy and when you’re a back six, continuity is important.”

A key aspect of Hawthorn’s pre-match planning will be finding a way to combat Geelong’s dynamic midfield duo of Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield.

“We back our system and don’t tag a lot. If we’re playing to our system and doing the Hawks’ things well, those type of issues look after themselves,” said Gibson.

The three-times premiership defender threw out a subtle psychological message to the Cats that the AFL benchmarks were coming to get them with their vast September experience.

“People talk about our form, but that’s irrelevant,” Gibson said.

“We finished top four and we play Geelong and we’re going out to hunt them this week.

That’s what we’re here for, finals football, so it’s a new season.

“We’ve got some different personnel this year, but it doesn’t change the way Hawthorn plays.

“It’s just a different face in the jumper and we always say, we play to a structure and that’s what we’ll do this week.

“We’re played a lot of finals footy, we know what to expect on Friday night.

“Being in that position before helps, but it doesn’t count for everything.

“They will be coming at us pretty hard and we’ll be going just as hard at them.”

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