It’s all smiles and compliments at the moment, but the feathers are set to fly when Hawthorn and North Melbourne renew rivalries in Friday night’s grudge match at Etihad Stadium.
The Kangaroos have a score to settle after copping a beating – both physically and on the scoreboard – when they last met Hawthorn in round five last year.
Hawks skipper Luke Hodge was suspended for three matches for his swinging left elbow to Andrew Swallow’s jaw during that 60-point win.
And vice-captain Jordan Lewis copped a two-match ban for felling Todd Goldstein with an old-fashioned coat hanger.
The incidents sparked heated debate about Hawthorn’s ‘unsociable’ brand of football.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson made no apologies for the his team’s hard-nosed approach in the aftermath of the match, saying they didn’t purposely target their opponents.
How both teams approach Friday night’s re-match will be closely scrutinised.
Hawks forward Jack Gunston had nothing but nice things to say about the Kangaroos when he fronted the media on Tuesday.
But he did confirm the Hawks won’t be backing away from their tough, contested approach.
“We aim to bring that every week. It’s no different this Friday night,” Gunston said.
“I guess these days you need to have a physical side to your game to get in there and win the ball and be the first to the ball.
“Otherwise, if you’re second to the ball, it can hurt the side. It can give away free kicks.”
Adding to the theatre of Friday’s match will be the high-stakes nature of the clash.
Ladder leading North Melbourne sit one win clear of the fifth-placed Hawks, with the race for top-four spots heating up immensely.
North Melbourne have lost two of their past three matches, including last week’s 31-point defeat to Geelong when five players got injured.
Swallow (concussion), Ben Cunnington (corked quad), Nick Dal Santo (groin), Shaun Atley (ankle) and Robbie Nahas (compound finger dislocation) all face fitness tests this week.
The Hawks will welcome back star midfielder Sam Mitchell (back) and ruckman Jonathon Ceglar (suspension), while Taylor Duryea (hip) is also in line for a recall.
Hawthorn have been installed as warm favourites for Friday’s match, but Gunston reckons the bookies have got it wrong.
“You probably have to go with them. They’re playing very consistent footy,” Gunston replied when asked who deserves to start as favourites.
“Their talls are taking marks, and they’re creative up forward. Their smalls are as damaging as any in the league.”