Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says the Hawks won’t compromise on their hard-edged, physical approach as their season continues to build momentum.
Defenders Josh Gibson and Ben Stratton this week accepted fines for striking offences that occurred behind the play during Hawthorn’s, at times spiteful, win over Adelaide.
Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall said on Triple M he didn’t like the display and accused the Hawks of “trying to manufacture some aggression”, but Clarkson vowed his side would continue to push the envelope.
“We know we play our best footy when we play close to the line and unfortunately for us that means sometimes crossing over it,” Clarkson said on Friday. “That happened in a couple of instances in the North Melbourne game (where Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis were later suspended) and last week, albeit very minor incidents, it happened too.
“If you want to play tough, physical, hard footy against really good opponents in hostile environments like Adelaide then you’ve got to play close to the line.
“We want to play within the rules as best we can, sometimes we just go outside of them, we’ve just got to be careful and mindful that we don’t do that too often.”
Hawthorn take on Essendon at the MCG on Saturday in a rematch of the round two thriller that the Bombers won by two points after a last-minute goal by Cale Hooker. However, the teams’ fortunes have gone in different directions since then.
The 13th-placed Bombers are looking to avoid their fourth defeat in a row while the Hawks can climb into the top four if they win their fourth match on the trot.
Essendon didn’t field a full-strength line-up in the NAB Challenge this year as the club awaited the verdict of the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal hearing, which may have caught Clarkson’s side off guard.
“We didn’t have a really great sample of games to watch the Essendon side, they’d only played one game to that point in time,” Clarkson said.
“So we’ve got a little bit more idea of the way that they play, so hopefully that will hold us in a bit better position.
“We learned some things out of that game and hopefully we’ll apply ourselves a little bit better this (time).”
Premiership defender Grant Birchall is back from an ankle injury to bolster a full-strength Hawks lineup, while Bombers coach James Hird made five changes to his team as he looks to snap their losing run.