Shaun Burgoyne acknowledges Hawthorn need to lift in their opening final against Geelong, having “pulled a rabbit out of the hat” to reach the AFL’s top four.
The Hawks needed to win their final game of the regular season to secure a double chance in finals but trailed Collingwood with a tick under three minutes remaining.
A long-range goal from Jack Fitzpatrick and Paul Puopolo’s behind delivered a thrilling one-point win for the Hawks at the MCG.
Burgoyne knows they can’t afford to produce the same patchy performance against the Cats at the same venue on Friday night.
“If we’re going to really challenge the best teams in the comp we can’t play like that. We have to lift,” Burgoyne told AAP.
“We probably should have lost that game and we just pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
“It was a weird feeling at the end of the game. It was quite a bruising encounter but we’ll be better for the run.”
Burgoyne could definitely see the upside to being tested before September.
“You don’t want a soft hit-out leading into finals. We’ve learned that the last few years,” the four-time premiership winner said.
“Tough hit-outs leading into finals (is ideal), you carry that momentum.”
Burgoyne will sit outright second on the list of most VFL/AFL finals played when he tackles Geelong.
It will be the 33-year-old’s 32nd final.
Burgoyne has a fair idea of what to expect from this time of year, although the pre-finals bye is very much uncharted territory.
It’s unclear who will benefit most from the week off but Burgoyne felt it could boost the three-time reigning premiers.
“It probably will help us. It will definitely help some of our injured players,” he said.
“If we played a final without the break, maybe Strats (Ben Stratton) doesn’t play.
“We’re able to ease up, recover, assess and work on what we need to do.”
Defender Ben Stratton (pectoral) and ruckman Ben McEvoy (back) are both expected to return from injuries against the Cats.
It’s set to be a far more youthful and inexperience side compared to the teams that lifted the cup in the past three years.
The Hawks have unveiled seven AFL debutants this year.
Only once before has coach Alastair Clarkson blooded more debutants in an AFL season, in 2005 which was his first year in charge.
“We’ve been lucky to have a core group of players go through but we’ve also had a breath of fresh air,” Burgoyne said.
“That gives us some fresh legs and that definitely helps and adds excitement around the group.”