Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is demanding that overworked midfielder Sam Mitchell gets more help from his teammates in Friday night’s AFL game against red-hot Adelaide at the MCG.
While Clarkson lauded Mitchell’s stellar early-season form, he emphasised that it highlighted an unhealthy aspect of the AFL premiers’ renowned midfield unit.
“We’re not interested in the individual side. As much as Mitchell has been playing well for us, we’re more concerned that we haven’t been spreading the load,” Clarkson said on Thursday.
“If he’s getting 44 touches, the others haven’t been holding their own in that part of the ground.
“We need more from all our players and it makes us harder to play against if there’s more of a contribution from his teammates.
“We like him winning the ball, but 44 touches tells us he’s doing too much on his own.”
The Hawks will be strengthened by the return of key defender Josh Gibson (hamstring) and speedy wingman Brad Hill (wrist). But young forward Ryan Schoenmakers (groin) is still out.
Hawthorn’s revered forward-half pressure will be critical to limit the free-scoring Crows who have plundered goals from the slingshot-style attack off half-back.
“If they get that sort of rebound, then any forward line is going to cause damage, particularly the Adelaide one,” Clarkson said.
“(We need to) limit the supply and their forward 50 entries, particularly where they get them from.
“If they’re getting them from their high half-backs, rebounding really quickly and efficiently, we’re going to be in a bit of trouble.”
The Adelaide midfield have not missed a beat under new coach Don Pyke, despite the departure of superstar Patrick Dangerfield to Geelong.
“All the good sides are pretty predictable in the middle of the ground, particularly Adelaide,” Clarkson said.
“They have a great ruckman in (Sam) Jacobs, (Rory) Sloane is playing a little more inside than he has in the past and the Crouch brothers are playing really good. So we know what we’re going to get in that part of the ground.”
Adelaide and Hawthorn take 3-1 win-loss records into Friday’s encounter at the MCG although the Crows are in much better form, with the Hawks having just got over the line in their past two matches against the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda.