Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says the smack in the gob from West Coast last month is all the motivation the Hawks need for the AFL grand final.
The two teams were the centre of attention in Friday’s grand final parade, which travelled a new route from the CBD to the MCG.
Grand final eve is a Victorian public holiday for the first time and it proved a massive success, with tens of thousands of fans enjoying the sunny weather and lining the parade route.
Hawthorn are on the verge of greatness, with a win on Saturday meaning they would become the first team since Brisbane in 2001-03 to claim three-straight premierships.
But Clarkson said at Friday’s pre-game media conference that the only motivation Hawthorn needed was their qualifying final loss to West Coast in Perth three weeks ago.
“The harsh reality is we got smacked right in the gob in the first final,” he said.
“Anything that happens in terms of the history of this particular era, or whatever, means nothing unless you focus on the here-and-now and what’s important.
“That here-and-now is this West Coast opposition, who have taken all before them over the course of the year.
“It’s going to be a cracking grand final – two really, really good sides (where players) are willing to do everything for their teammates.”
That loss to West Coast meant the Hawks have made the grand final the hard way, with a semi-final win over Adelaide and another trip to Perth to beat Fremantle in last Friday’s preliminary final.
Clarkson said the Hawks had spoken about the possibility of a three-peat before the finals started.
“When things come up in the press, that means invariably they’re coming up in players’ homes, family and friends,” he said.
“We try to address the elephant in the room as best we can when things arise.
“We’re not unrealistic enough not to know that players read and feel what’s going on in the press.”
By contrast, West Coast had a week off after the Hawthorn win and then beat North Melbourne last Saturday to make the grand final.
This grand final looms as the hottest since 1987, with 28 degrees forecast in Melbourne, and the popular belief is that the warm conditions will suit the Eagles.
But West Coast coach Adam Simpson dismissed it as a potential factor.
“It’s irrelevant. I don’t think it will affect anything,” Simpson said.
“Both teams prepare in such a way that regardless of the conditions, it won’t make a difference.”
Clarkson said it was a tough decision to drop young midfielder Billy Hartung for Jack Gunston, who returns from two games out with an ankle injury.
He added the strong form of Ryan Schoenmakers, widely predicted to make way for Gunston, meant he deserved to stay in the side.