Hawthorn have regained important duo Ben Stratton and Ben McEvoy for Friday night’s AFL qualifying final against Geelong, but coach Alastair Clarkson could make further changes depending on conditions.
With heavy rainfall expected to hit Melbourne on Friday, Clarkson said he wouldn’t hesitate to make last-minute tweaks to his line-up when he spoke to reporters on Thursday morning before the Hawks’ final training run.
“We’ll pick a side that we think can beat Geelong in any conditions and then we’ll adjust accordingly before the game and during the game depending on how much rain comes,” Clarkson said.
“You just cope with whatever’s put in front of you … and the benefit for this group is that they’re experienced.
“They’ve overcome a lot of hurdles over the journey and, whatever’s put in front of them, they usually find a way to get around it.”
Stratton had been out since injuring a pectoral muscle in round 20 and McEvoy missed the Hawks’ dramatic round-23 win over Collingwood with back soreness.
Marc Pittonet and Billy Hartung were the unlucky players to make way for the pair.
Geelong made just one change, bringing in Scott Selwood at the expense of Jed Bews.
The Cats stormed into second spot on the back of a seven-game winning streak, while the Hawks lost two of their last four matches to slip to third.
Clarkson dismissed the value of form lines heading into a finals campaign, but did concede his side’s knack of taking out close games this year – they won six matches by less than 10 points – could come into play.
Patrick Dangerfield dominated with 43 possessions in their round-one win over Hawthorn, and Clarkson played his plans for the Cats’ superstar close to his chest.
“He’s a great player but … they’ve got enormous depth through the middle of the ground,” he said.
“It’s no secret that it’s going to be a key battle for the contest.
“If we can get enough supply in that part of the ground, then we give ourselves a chance. But in the only game we’ve played this year, they’ve won that battle and it cost us the game.”