AFL’s Hawks not chasing improvement

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says his side doesn’t need to improve to win the AFL premiership.

The flag favourites are sitting pretty after beating a brutal Collingwood in Friday night’s MCG qualifying final, the 20.15 (135) to 15.7 (97) victory earning the Hawks next weekend off before a home preliminary final.

But the win came at a significant cost, with the Hawks confirming on Saturday that youngster Brendan Whitecross ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in the game.

That ends his season and will potentially impact on his start to next season.

Clarkson acknowledged the victory included more than its fair share of mistakes, but said winning finals had little to do with beautiful football.

“Strangely enough you’re not looking for improvement in September, you’re just looking to grind out wins really,” Clarkson said.

“It was a different sort of game.

“It was very, very high-scoring but it wasn’t a game where it was high quality in terms of ball use or anything like that.

“It was just a real scrubby hard-fought game.

“In finals so often they’re the type of victories you’ve got to try to secure, playing in that type of manner.

“We’re just happy to get the win any way that we possibly can.

“But in terms of looking at the game saying did we play it perfectly, I don’t think there’s any perfect game in finals footy.

“We won’t be searching for that.”

Clarkson said the first 15 minutes was as fierce as he has seen and while neither side scored a goal in that period, the physical toll meant goals came more freely later.

“You only have to look at the last 10 minutes of the game,” he said.

“I thought we were stuffed and I looked at the Collingwood players and they were just as bad.

“It was a tough brutal contest and we’re fortunate by winning the game that we get a rest.”

Hawthorn expect to regain Jordan Lewis, a late withdrawal with a hamstring injury, and Clinton Young, left out with a calf complaint, for their preliminary final.

Clarkson said both were close to playing on Friday night, but the Hawks had not wanted to take a risk, particularly after Brent Guerra’s serious hamstring injury in the previous round.

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