AFL premiers Hawthorn strove this week to balance the celebration-distraction aspect of Sam Mitchell’s 300-game milestone against Richmond on Sunday.
While coach Alastair Clarkson said the popular midfielder’s achievements were emphasised in the lead-up to the occasion, it wouldn’t be a pre-game focus in the MCG dressing rooms.
“We acknowledged it in the appropriate manner, but we don’t want it to overshadow the importance of just trying to get a win. He will remember his 300th game more fondly if we can get a win this week,” Clarkson said.
“There are times when emotion can get you up, whether it’s to do with a milestone or something else. But there are also times when emotion can be draining and we’ve seen that in our more recent history where things have happened during the week and we haven’t been spot on the following weekend.
“It’s just one time you get a brief time to reflect on the contribution of an individual. We never try to make it too much about the individual because it’s still a team sport.
“You still need 22 guys to do a job for your side. But there is a moment, especially when it’s 300 games and it takes 15 years to get there, and that’s a long time to play at the top level.”
Hawthorn’s settled line-up of one change with forward Tim O’Brien back at the expense of backman Angus Litherland is a stark contrast to the reshaped Richmond that the Hawks beat by 46 points in early May.
“You only have to look at the Adelaide Crows. It’s remarkable they’ve only used 27 players for the year. You’re always searching for that stability and continuity, whether it’s players or coaches week to week,” Clarkson said.
“Richmond’s whole defence is different [from] the round 7 game. They didn’t have (Alex) Rance, (David) Astbury and (Dylan) Grimes play that game.
“There’s a fair difference in personnel and Richmond at that point were in a bit of a trough and had won only one or two games and over the last nine weeks they’ve won six and lost three.”