Hawthorn forwards Jack Gunston and Ryan Schoenmakers are vying for the unwanted tag of this season’s AFL grand final hard luck story as Gunston fights to overcome an ankle injury.
Schoenmakers replaced Gunston in the side after he was injured in the qualifying final loss to West Coast and is the player most likely to make way if the Hawks’ leading goal kicker is passed fit for the premiership decider against the Eagles.
It would be a bitter pill for Schoenmakers to swallow if that proves to be the case, having missed out on the Hawks’ past two premierships.
“You’d feel for anyone who misses out on a grand final,” teammate Jarryd Roughead said on Monday.
“(But) it’s not just him. There’s other blokes that have played a number of games this year and might not be able to make this team … we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
“The thing with us is we’ve always said that squads win premierships. You’d love it if every bloke that played during the year got a medal but that’s not how it goes. A strength of ours has been the depth of our side over the past few years and it’s no different this year.”
Roughead wasn’t able to shed any light on Gunston’s progress, but admitted it would be a tough call for Alastair Clarkson and his match committee to make.
With a historic third flag in a row on offer, Hawthorn’s wealth of finals experience will be a key factor this week.
The Eagles are appearing in their first premiership decider since they last won the flag in 2006, while Clarkson’s men are into their fifth grand final in the past eight years, which Roughead said would be a big positive for his side.
“No doubt it’s a major factor that we can draw on our knowledge – we’ve been here before and we know what to do this week,” he said.
“We know how to enjoy it and we know how to go about it, which is obviously a good thing.”
Hawthorn have the edge in finals experience but the Eagles will go in with the confidence of their impressive qualifying final win at Domain stadium.
Adam Simpson’s side pressured the Hawks into uncharacteristic errors in that game and Roughead said it was important for his team to make the most of early opportunities to apply their own scoreboard pressure.
Hawthorn have taken the hard road to this year’s grand final having made two trips to Perth and not had a week off, but Roughead said his teammates have been carefully managed and were ready for the challenge.
“A lot of people probably wrote us off last year with injuries … this year we’ve had some similar things happen but I guess it’s just a bit of a different way to get there,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve had to play four finals. But we’ve only lost two finals in the past three or four years so it’s pretty special.
“Hopefully we don’t lose another one this year.”