Hawthorn want protection for Sam Mitchell after claiming their midfield star was unfairly bashed behind the ball in Friday night’s AFL qualifying final loss to Geelong.
Shaun Burgoyne said while Mitchell thrived on the challenge of the hard tag, applied by Scott Selwood in the Cats’ win, he needed help from both his teammates and the umpires.
“We need to help him out and protect him a little bit more. He’s one of those guys who loves the fierce and tight battles,” he said.
Burgoyne said “there were a few times when he was hit” behind play when he would have liked to have heard a whistle.
“It’s a hard one for the umpires as well because they want to let the game go. They want it to be a physical game and they don’t want to be paying these silly frees,” he said.
“You can’t pay every single one that’s there.
“But if a player is being targeted like he was on the weekend I would have thought one free kick here or there would definitely help.”
The hard-running young Bulldogs have gained widespread admiration after bursting on the scene under coach Luke Beveridge last season, backing up their surprise finals appearance in 2015 with a return to September this season.
There’s a sense that they’ll be every non-Hawthorn fan’s favourite on Friday but Burgoyne reminded the neutrals there was reason to back the Hawks too.
“We’ve done things the hard way the last few years,” he said, referencing Jarryd Roughead’s cancer fight and Alastair Clarkson’s sidelining with a serious immunity condition.
“We’ve had a lot of obstacles thrown at us and shown that we’re a pretty resilient group.”
Burgoyne said it could be valuable motivation.
“When you come off a loss you think about what you’ve had to overcome in the last couple of years and this group has played better footy when we’ve had to overcome those hard obstacles,” he said.
“That might be touched on this week.
“We just need to stay in the here and now and prepare for another physical game because we don’t want to get caught dwelling on the weekend or in the past.”