Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says silencing the parochial Perth crowd will be key in defeating Fremantle and reaching a fourth-straight AFL grand final.
Experienced midfielder Jordan Lewis spoke of the fear factor that confronts visiting teams on their trips to Domain Stadium on Wednesday, saying the environment got to the Hawks in their qualifying final loss to West Coast.
As he flew out on Thursday morning for their preliminary final, Clarkson admitted the “pretty confronting” atmosphere needed to be addressed.
“What helps is if you’re playing good strong footy and kicking goals, you’re silencing the crowd, that’s going to help you get over the line,” he said.
Lewis said the two-time reigning premiers were “intimidated a little bit” on their last visit to Perth but Clarkson said the Hawks could look just a few weeks back for proof they could triumph in the West.
“It’s an environment that’s difficult to play footy, the 40,000 crowd is all going to be screaming,” he said.
“But we faced it six weeks ago too with West Coast and it didn’t worry us then.
“It’s not just playing against Fremantle side, it’s playing against the crowd … we need to overcome that particular element of the game to get ourselves a good chance.”
Lewis, captain Luke Hodge and four other Hawks chose to fly out on Wednesday but were grounded by a mechanical issue and spent seven hours at Tullamarine airport.
Clarkson laughed off the delay, saying they’d be waiting for Friday night’s game no matter what state they were in.
“The boys were having a good time at the airport but whether they were sitting in the airport here or a hotel in Perth, it’s not going to make too much difference,” he said.
“We leave it up to our players to try to identify what suits their preparation the best … they got a good night’s sleep last night and will get themselves ready.”
The only man missing from the Hawks’ best 22 is this year’s leading goalkicker Jack Gunston, who was ruled out on Wednesday as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered in Perth against the Eagles.
Clarkson said Gunston could risk a potential grand final appearance trying to get to the line to play this weekend, so the club backed him off.
“We want to take a fit, running team into this game in Perth,” he said.
“He’s not at a level required to compete at a top-level environment in a pretty hostile environment so it wasn’t worth the risk.
“Sometimes when you’ve got these kind of injuries you can do more damage trying to get them to the line.”