When both opposing coaches play down the significance of an AFL clash it usually means something special is brewing.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and Fremantle counterpart Ross Lyon have tried their hardest to paint Sunday’s encounter in Launceston as just another opportunity to bank four premiership points.
But when the reigning premiers take on the runaway ladder leaders in a match touted as a grand final preview there’s a fair bit more at stake.
After an uneven start to the season, Clarkson’s side are gunning for their sixth win on the trot at their home away from home in Launceston where they’ve won their past 13 games.
The Dockers aren’t in the same dominant form from earlier in the season but remain two games clear on top of the ladder, with Clarkson labelling Lyon’s side the current benchmark of the competition.
“They’ll be keen to test themselves against us just like we’re keen to test ourselves against them,” Clarkson said on Saturday.
“We’re pretty keen to see where we’re at as a club.
“There’s still only four points available for this game just like there was last week and next week – that’s what we’re trying to secure. But every time you play against good sides you actually learn a fair bit about yourself.
“We’re likely to have to play them again at some stage in the finals if we want to give it a real good crack but we’ve got to build enough wins in that period of time to get another go at them.
“(But) we don’t get caught up in all the emotion – it’s all about trying to secure four points.”
The tantalising encounter pits Hawthorn’s top-ranked attack against the stingiest defence in the league that is yet to concede over 100 points in a game this season.
The Hawks are still without spearhead Jarryd Roughead, who travelled with the team as he continues to recover from a skin cancer scare, but Clarkson is bullish about the weapons that remain at his disposal.
“We’ve coped with adversity before as a club,” he said.
“We coped okay last week against Collingwood without being fantastic in that regard but we’ve got a good spread of players and hopefully we’ll be able to do it again in terms of sharing the load.”