Star Hawk unlikely to face Lions

Hawthorn’s bumpy preparation for the finals has continued with veteran onballer Sam Mitchell unlikely to play against Brisbane on Saturday due to illness.

Mitchell didn’t fly out for Launceston with the rest of the team on Friday morning and coach Alastair Clarkson said he was “more unlikely than likely” to make the trip.

On the back of an upset loss to Port Adelaide that hurt their top-two chances, the Hawks have lost skipper Luke Hodge to suspension and key assistant coach Brendon Bolton to Carlton this week.

It could be argued that the enforced rest of veterans Hodge and Mitchell isn’t such a bad thing with a tough finals campaign looming.

But Clarkson admitted the loss of Bolton, who was appointed the Blues’ senior coach on Tuesday, required some reshuffling.

“We’ve had to confront that a bit over the last little while – it doesn’t make it any easier, in a sense, but we know what to expect,” Clarkson said.

“We’ve got contingencies for this sort of stuff in terms of other people stepping into the role.

“Whether it’s happened with assistant coaches or whether it’s happened with my illness last year … our mantra all along has been ‘lose a soldier replace him with another one’.

“Whether that’s a player or a coach or an administrator our club isn’t about relying too heavily on any one individual.”

Senior assistant coach Brett Ratten returned to the club on Thursday after taking time off following the death of his teenage son in a car accident last week and travelled with the team to Launceston.

Hodge also travelled and while the skipper is serving his second suspension of the season, it doesn’t appear his contentious bump on Chad Wingard has him in Clarkson’s dog house.

“It’s difficult but you’ve just got to deal with it,” he said.

“(The tribunal) made a judgment that they thought it was untoward.

“I probably beg to differ on that but they make the ruling, we move on, and we’ll get ourselves ready for the finals.”

The third-placed Hawks made three changes ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Lions, with David Hale, Will Langford and James Sicily the inclusions.

Last-placed Brisbane also made three changes with Daniel Rich, Justin Clarke and Hugh Beasley into the side that will attempt to break Hawthorn’s impressive run of 14 wins in Launceston.

“We’ll keep our eye on Brisbane but we need to correct some things to do with our performance and not worry so much about what Brisbane are going to be doing or otherwise,” Clarkson said.

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