Hawks unsure of line-up to tackle Eagles

With only one injury concern, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has some tough decisions to make ahead of the AFL qualifying final against West Coast.

Wingman Isaac Smith is the only Hawk in serious doubt for their Friday night clash at Domain Stadium after injuring his knee in their last round win over Carlton.

Diagnosed with medial ligament damage, he hasn’t been ruled out but is highly unlikely to make the trip west with the two-time defending champions.

With captain Luke Hodge, playmaker Cyril Rioli and sharpshooter Luke Breust all now available, Clarkson said the depth at the Hawks meant some players would be unlucky.

“Squads win premierships and our players have been well educated on that but hopefully over the journey all of them get a lick of the ice-cream in that regard,” Clarkson said on Monday.

Speedster Billy Hartung shapes as an obvious like-for-like replacement for Smith, but Clarkson said it depended on how the coaching staff planned to match up against the Eagles.

They last met in round 19 when the Hawks ran out 14-point winners at the same venue.

The Eagles were missing star ruck duo Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair from that match, although Scott Lycett shone in their absence.

“He was nearly West Coast’s best player; he played a fantastic game that night,” Clarkson said.

“We know that the ruck area of the ground for West Coast is a really pivotal part of the ground.

“That supply to their mids is one of the strengths of their game so we need to compete ferociously in that part of the ground.”

The flexible Hawks have the option of returning James Frawley to defence to help Brian Lake and Josh Gibson counter the Eagles’ dangerous tall forwards.

“There’s a chance that could happen but we just have to work out the balance of our side and the availability of it,” said Clarkson.

“What we’ve explored over the last two weeks is Frawley being able to play front and back gives us that flexibility and options and we need that because (Josh) Kennedy and (Jack) Darling are the best duo as a key front half in the competition.”

Meanwhile, Clarkson defended the penalty of a club fine handed down to Hodge, who was caught drink-driving last Thursday night.

Hodge, who was already suspended for two games for an on-field incident, escaped a ban from the club.

Clarkson said Hodge had been “publicly shamed” for his drink-driving.

“I can’t think of anyone for blowing 0.068 has been publicly shamed as much as this bloke,” Clarkson said.

“There will be some who disagree with the way we’ve handled.

“But we’re the ones in the best position to make judgments on what’s the most appropriate way of handling it and we’ve done that.”

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