Veteran Shaun Burgoyne fully expects Hawthorn to be cast in the role of villains in Friday night’s AFL semi-final against the Western Bulldogs.
The Hawks have several key factors in their favour ahead of the MCG date with the Bulldogs, not least an eight-game winning streak over their opponents and an unrivalled finals pedigree.
But favouritism for the match doesn’t sit well with Burgoyne, who says results of the last week have put the Hawks on notice.
Hawthorn were valiant two-point losers to Geelong a night after the Dogs stunned West Coast with a 47-point win in Perth.
Burgoyne suggested those results, coupled with minor premier Sydney’s loss, meant the ladder was irrelevant in September.
“These finals it doesn’t really matter where you finished or what your form is coming into finals, it’s pretty much a 50-50 game and that’s the way we’ll treat it,” he said.
“If you remember the game we played against them early on in the year, it took us until the last minute pretty much to win the game.”
The most-recent meeting clash between the Hawks and the Bulldogs, who are coached by former Hawthorn assistant Luke Beveridge, was one of the matches of the season.
An injury-time contest settled the match as James Sicily marked and converted for a three-point win to set the tone for the Bulldogs’ season.
As he duelled with Sicily for position, captain Bob Murphy suffered the ACL injury that ruled him out for the season.
The Dogs soldiered on without their spiritual leader and other key players as injuries mounted, recording a stunning finals upset last Thursday over West Coast.
Their resilience – and the fact that the Bulldogs’ only flag came way back in 1954 while the Hawks are the three-time defending champions – has much of the football world cheering for Beveridge’s men.
Burgoyne shrugged off the anti-Hawks factor.
“It seems like that every week,” he laughed.
“They’re pretty much everyone’s second favourite team because of where they’ve come from the last couple of years.
“Every team we come up against we’re fully aware they’re coming out to play against the reigning premiers. We expect that every week.”