Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has consigned the Hawks’ back-to-back premierships to history ahead of their round one Easter Monday clash with Geelong.
Far from being an advantage, Clarkson says the title of reigning premier only makes it harder to compete.
It’s a message that’s being drummed into his playing group as they attempt to kick off their season with a bang.
“We don’t get any credits for season 2014,” he said.
“It’s not like they give us a couple of wins to start the season, we’re not going to get a three or four goal head-start against the Cats.”
And then there’s the added difficulty of playing with a target on their back.
“The draw is particularly tough and sides are going to be coming at the premier and that’s par for the course,” he said.
“And then of course there’s the draft that makes it more difficult to bring players into your system.”
Not that the Hawks, who under Clarkson have billed themselves as a “destination club”, have had any trouble recruiting at the top end of the ladder.
All-Australian backman James Frawley will make his debut for the Hawks, while No.2 draft pick Jono O’Rourke has been named as an emergency.
Hawthorn also has highly-rated players back from injuries, including young gun Jed Anderson and Brendan Whitecross.
Anderson will play his first game of AFL for 18 months on Monday, but Clarkson said his time out with pneumonia and a shoulder injury hasn’t been totally negative.
“It’s given him a chance to mature physically and in the mind and develop some resilience,” he said.
“We’re excited with what he can bring to our side.”
Clarkson will move around Josh Gibson, Brian Lake and Frawley on Geelong giants Tom Hawkins and Mitch Clark until he finds a balance that can negate their impact.
“It’s going to be a bit of trial and error … it’ll be a really intriguing part of the game I’m sure,” he said.