Hawthorn expect AFL niggle from North

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Hawthorn expect AFL niggle from North

Undermanned flag favourites Hawthorn are bracing for another physical battle with AFL rivals North Melbourne.

Recent meetings have generally been hostile, especially last year when Hawks Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis both copped suspensions for striking.

In addition to the obvious spite, both side will be under immense pressure at the MCG on Saturday.

The Hawks, who revealed on Tuesday they will be without injured defender Ben Stratton for the rest of the regular season, risk slipping outside the top four if they lose.

It would be an immense blow to the ladder leaders’ push for a fourth straight premiership.

The Kangaroos, who dished up plenty of aggro in recent clashes with Collingwood and Western Bulldogs, need a victory to ensure their place in finals.

“They like to try and get under our skin,” Lewis said.

“You expect that from North Melbourne, especially against us.

“They know we’ve got dangerous players up forward and they try and rattle them.

“It didn’t work for them last time.

“We were ready for it last time and we’ll be ready for it again.”

The Hawks recorded a nine-point win when the sides met in round 13 this year.

“You want to be in front on the scoreboard and that’s what happened,” Lewis said.

James Sicily will miss the game because of suspension, while Cyril Rioli and Sam Mitchell were scrutinised by the match review panel following Hawthorn’s shock loss to Melbourne.

Lewis backed the Hawks to keep their cool against North.

“You’re always wary of the fact if you do something silly that you do miss games,” he said.

“They’re in a situation where they need to win every game. So are we .. our percentage isn’t great.

“It means it’s a high-pressure game. It’s a finals-like game and they’re the games we really enjoy.”

Rioli escaped with a $1000 fine for his bump on Demons young gun Clayton Oliver.

The reigning Norm Smith medallist also laid 12 tackles in the contest, with Lewis thoroughly impressed.

“Everyone sees the high-flying marks and miraculous goals but I think he’s the best pressure player in the competition,” he said.

Lewis admitted losing Stratton, who has a torn pectoral muscle, was a major blow.

“He’s been a super player for a long time. He’s one of those defenders that can play tall and small,” he said.

Angus Litherland is likely to be called up in Stratton’s absence, while Paul Puopolo (hip), James Frawley (shoulder) and Liam Shiels (hammy) could return from injuries against North.

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