With the landscape being so perilous and tight at the top of the table, the Hawks must find a way to eclipse the gritty Dogs. The Hawks are still missing captain Luke Hodge and with a less-than-fully-fit Buddy Franklin, destroyed GWS and showed that they plan to take no prisoners in the final weeks of the home-and-away season.
Franklin is out for the next three weeks, which will hurt, but they have found ways to kick goals without him and the Bulldogs defence has hardly been one of the best in the competition.The Bulldogs have to show some fight in the remaining rounds of the season.
They are no chance for finals but if they play at their competitive best they could surprise a few.
WHY SHOULD YOU TUNE IN?
The midfield battle should be intriguing with Boyd’s record against the Hawks impressive, gathering 35 disposals in four of the past five meetings between the sides. However, the Hawks should have too much depth through the middle of the ground, and are likely to provide their forwards with enough chances.
Brendan McCartney’s team have had the same problem throughout 2012 and their struggles inside 50 are compounded by their poor use going into the forward arc.
The issue was underlined in the loss to Fremantle, with the Bulldogs taking just six marks inside 50 – Daniel Cross and Will Minson each took two, while Tory Dickson and Justin Sherman grabbed one each.
The Hawks have rectified its early-season problems in contested possessions and clearances in recent weeks, but a little crack appeared against the Giants on Sunday.
Kevin Sheedy’s young team led the two counts convincingly at quarter-time (38-25 and 13-5 respectively), much to the displeasure of Clarkson. The Hawks lifted a gear after that and eventually won both stats convincingly, but they’ll be looking for a better start against the tough, in-and-under Bulldogs.
Their small forwards will need to produce solid performances to maintain the Hawks high scoring average. Cyril Rioli and Luke Bruest have been valuable in that area of the ground this season and will need to step up. Rioli was dangerous in the forward half last weekend booting three, while Breust has found the big sticks on multiple occasions in every game since Round 8.
Hawthorn have a major point to prove. The continued insinuation that they cannot match it with the best and can only embarress inferior opposition has been spread around the footy landscape.
You can only beat who you play, but need players to be confident in their own games before they can take a step and challenge up to Collingwood next week. Too much top end class for Hawks and they should record their last comfortable win before heading into murky waters.
Hawks by 48.