Star Hawk needs more protection: Clarkson

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson believes AFL umpires need to better protect star onballer Sam Mitchell from off-the-ball treatment from opposition taggers.

But he’s not optimistic that will happen.

Mitchell was one of the Hawks’ best players in their qualifying final loss to Geelong but he endured a torrid evening as he was involved in several skirmishes with opponent Scott Selwood amongst others.

“All of the high quality players are like that, so you’re just not going to win that argument,” Clarkson replied when asked if he felt Mitchell deserved a better run with the umpires.

“We want him to have more protection, but that’s the lay of the land, that’s up to the umpires to decide what they do in terms of the protection of players.

“He’s a ball player, the off-the-ball stuff has been a bit untoward, but he’s been able to cope with that for 15 years. So no doubt he’ll be coping with it again.”

The Hawks face a sudden-death semifinal against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Friday night.

Clarkson made two changes to the side that fell to a two-point loss against the Cats, regaining forward James Sicily from an illness and recalling midfielder Billy Hartung.

Ryan Burton was ruled out with a calf injury, while Daniel Howe – a late inclusion against Geelong – was omitted.

The Bulldogs made one forced change, bringing in Toby McLean for Lin Jong, who broke a collarbone in his side’s elimination final win over West Coast.

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