Injury-stricken Carlton will struggle to field a side against Hawthorn this week but Hawks defender Grant Birchall says Saturday’s clash is all about building good habits for the defending premiers.
The Blues will likely have just 25 fit players, the bare minimum required for a complete team with three emergencies, when they sit down at the selection table this week.
On paper, the game looks a terribly lopsided affair that won’t provide Hawthorn with much of a test as they enter the last phase of their preparation for the finals.
Birchall isn’t taking the opposition lightly, but he admits the Hawks are more intent on getting their own house in order.
“We just want to get into some really good habits leading into finals,” Birchall said on Tuesday.
“They’ve still got some quality players and it’s Andrew Carrazzo’s last game so they’ll be up for that.
“But we just want to get into some really good habits and play some good footy … a good consistent four quarters of footy leading into finals.”
In contrast to the Blues, Hawthorn are flying on the injury front with Sam Mitchell (illness) and Paul Puopolo (ankle) likely to return after missing last week’s win over Brisbane.
Suspended skipper Luke Hodge will miss Saturday’s match but will be available for the first week of the finals, giving coach Alastair Clarkson plenty of selection options.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape, we’ve got pretty much a full list to choose from and we’ve made the top four, which was a goal for us at the start of the season,” Birchall said.
“I think we’ve been playing some reasonable footy but I think we’ll focus on our starts to games, particularly this week that will be a bit of a focus.
“(But) I think we’re building quite nicely.”