Hawks, Swans set to renew AFL rivalry

Much has changed since Hawthorn thumped Sydney in the 2014 AFL grand final.

Both sides have welcomed some new recruits and bid farewell to champions, while the Hawks last year banked a third consecutive flag.

But a lot remains the same.

Lance Franklin is still the centre of attention and the teams are vowing to lift for the latest chapter in an engaging rivalry.

“It’ll be an awesome challenge for us. They’re outstanding with the contested stuff and around the stoppages,” Hawks ruckman Ben McEvoy told AAP.

“It’s a big stage at the MCG on Friday night.

“We know they’re a quality outfit. We’ve got to be at our best to try and get over them.”

Swans co-captain Jarrad McVeigh was also full of praise for the opposition.

“There’s no bigger challenge than Hawthorn on their home deck,” McVeigh said.

“We always have pretty good battles against them.

“Over the years the teams have changed a fair bit but it’s another huge challenge and we look forward to it.”

Both sides have a 6-2 record, with their contest to shape the top four.

The Swans are coming off arguably their worst performance of the year, a shock one-point loss to Richmond.

“We’ll get better and we’ll improve” McVeigh said.

“We’ve got to dust ourselves off pretty quickly. We’ve got a short turnaround.”

The Hawks clicked in the third quarter to defeat Fremantle by 41 points but a sloppy first half means they also have plenty to work on.

“We’re still not playing our best footy,” McEvoy said.

“At our best we go a lot closer to putting together four quarters of really strong contested footy. We’ve just got to keep working on that.”

The two teams have faced off in four finals over the past five seasons, most notably the 2012 and 2014 premiership deciders.

Franklin, having left the Hawks in 2013 to join Sydney, has generally hogged the headlines.

It will be no different this week, especially with the superstar forward nearing career-best form.

McVeigh suggested Franklin, who is leading the Coleman medal race, has never played better in the red and white.

“He’s had some unbelievable years but his high-level performance and the way he goes about it is unbelievable this year,” McVeigh said.

“His goal-kicking has gone to another level as well.”

Swans midfielder Luke Parker is one of many buoyed by the prospect of Franklin, who is averaging 4.25 goals a game, potentially kicking 100 goals this season.

“It’s a really exciting thing for club. It could happen,” Parker told the Seven Network.

“He’s enjoying his football, he’s really happy around the club. This whole year he’s been a different bloke really.”

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