Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is confident a string of returning premiership players will push his side into the top four when the Hawks return from the bye.
The Hawks go into their break on the back of a 63-point Sunday night touch-up of St Kilda, a confident four-quarter performance that yielded no injuries or major headaches for Clarkson’s side.
It was the perfect way to head into the break, with the club handing players four days off before returning to prepare for a trip to Adelaide Oval to face Adelaide.
It’s then that Clarkson will begin his assault on the highest rungs of the AFL ladder.
Flag winners Grant Birchall (ankle) and Paul Puopolo (foot) are likely to return in round 12.
Last year’s player of the finals series Will Langford (calf) also returned in Box Hill’s VFL win over Port Melbourne alongside Matt Spanger and Ben McEvoy (both hamstring).
For Clarkson, it represents the most important factor in climbing the table from fifth where they currently sit.
“Our list is pretty healthy going into the bye,” he said.
“That competition for spots will be really important for us in the second half of the year.”
Behind both Western Australian and Sydney sides in the ladder, and Collingwood too if they triumph on Monday, Clarkson said the percentage boost from their big wins could be handy.
“Going into today’s game to get to 6-4 we’re pleased but we probably would have liked a one or two wins more,” he said.
“It’s a tough competition, we’ve lost four games by under two goals … and the games we have won we’ve won convincingly.
“If it becomes a real fight to the death to make top four, percentage will help us later in the year.”
Clarkson said he wasn’t content with statistical domination in a number of key areas.
The Hawks are league leaders in finding targets inside 50, intercept possessions and have racked up plenty of uncontested marks and short kicks as is their style.
But the three-time premiership coach said he was more interested in the final scoreboard.
“Like most people I measure the Ws and Ls more than anything else,” he said.
“Statistical stuff is nice to know you’re going OK in some areas.
“We’re all about transferring those statistical data into wins.”