Hawthorn didn’t handle the dimensions of Domain Stadium well in their last visit so they went to school on one of the longest, yet skinniest, AFL grounds in the country.
By their own admission, the Hawks didn’t play the ground well in their qualifying final loss to West Coast so, with a grand final berth on offer against Fremantle at the same venue, coach Alastair Clarkson brought a little piece of Perth to south-east Melbourne.
“We redesigned our ground at Waverley throughout the week and the boys trained with the different dimensions, so that was beneficial,” assistant coach Cameron Bruce said, ahead of Friday night’s preliminary final.
“And playing here the amount of times we have this season is obviously also beneficial, so we think we’re prepared for what we’re coming up against.”
Hawthorn played at Subiaco twice this season, both against the Eagles for a win and a loss, and they reacquainted themselves with the ground during a light training session in temperatures approaching 30 degrees on Thursday afternoon.
At the selection table, the Hawks went with the same 22 that destroyed Adelaide by 74 points last week, while Ross Lyon resisted the temptation to bring in master tagger Ryan Crowley and added Jonathon Griffin and Matt Taberner at the expense of Clancee Pearce and Zac Clarke.
The well-rested Dockers sat and watched as Hawthorn dismantled the Crows but the Hawks are still the bookmakers’ favourites despite having to make their second cross-country trip in as many weeks.
The Hawks have beaten Fremantle in seven of their last eight meetings, including a 72-point mauling in Launceston in round 15, but Bruce said that would count for little on Friday night when they go head to head with the Dockers, who have generally stamped their authority on games early this year.
“You always want to get off to a good start in big games,” he said. “Fremantle are really good starters so it’s going to be important to do that (on Friday) night.
“What we do know is it’s finals footy, it’s a preliminary final, it’s winner takes all so it’s going to be on inside – the midfield battle is going to be really important.”