Hawks declare ‘game on’ against AFL Power

Alastair Clarkson has lit the fuse for Hawthorn’s match with Port Adelaide, declaring their AFL rivals unable to turn their physical style into a winning one.

In incendiary comments likely to ensure a full-blooded Adelaide Oval clash on Thursday night, Clarkson said he embraced the challenge of a fired-up Port Adelaide, daring the Power to bring a physical approach to the game.

Port has beaten Hawthorn in their past three regular season meetings, with the 2014 preliminary final cliffhanger going the Hawks’ way – a match Clarkson suggested was still living in the Power’s memory.

“They’re probably smarting a little bit from the preliminary final loss two years ago,” Clarkson told reporters on Wednesday.

“That’s probably fuelled a lot of motivation … the last couple of times we have played them.

“They’ve ambushed us a little bit with their physicality and their starts to games. But it’s very, very hard to do that on a sustainable basis.

“We like to think we’ve proved ourselves over a long period of time playing tough hard footy (and) Port Adelaide are yet to prove they can do that on a week-to-week basis.

“Those comments will fuel a little bit of spite but you say ‘righto, it’s game on’ and it is game on. We’re ready to come and play.”

Clarkson said the regular-season losses to the Power weren’t motivating his side, which was instead driven by holding down top spot on the AFL ladder.

As the Hawks look down on the rest of the competition, a loss for Port Adelaide could see them three wins away from a finals berth with just eight rounds remaining.

Clarkson said for that reason, he expected a fierce challenge from Ken Hinkley’s side – but it wouldn’t surprise or rattle him.

“This has been coming at us for three or four years,” he said.

“We’ve been able to cope really well with it … it has held us in great stead when it comes finals time.

“We can endure and we can withstand whatever is thrown at us.

“There’s no greater environment, hostile environment than Adelaide Oval tomorrow night. We’ll embrace it.”

Hawthorn will return Cyril Rioli to their lineup after a family bereavement kept the star forward out of their last match.

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