North loss keeps driving AFL Hawks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

North loss keeps driving AFL Hawks

By Roger Vaughan 09/09/2008 07:42:10 PM Comments (0)

The AFL semi-final loss to North Melbourne last year continues to drive Hawthorn as they push for their grand final destiny.

Vice-captain Luke Hodge and star forward Lance Franklin referred to the disappointment of the North loss as the Hawks wait to see who they meet in the preliminary final.

The Hawks will play the winner of Saturday night's semi-final between St Kilda and Collingwood.

After Franklin's late goal gave Hawthorn an elimination-final win over Adelaide last September, North humbled them a week later.

They started this finals series by smashing the Bulldogs on Friday night to earn the week off.

Asked if the team was better-placed than this time last year, Hodge replied: "I hope so, we've done a lot of hard work this year to get in this position.

"It would be pretty disappointing if we weren't ready.

"Having (had) the disappointment of last year, it's made us a little bit more headstrong and we know what to do when we go out and play in a fortnight's time."

Hawthorn and Geelong will start strong favourites regardless of their opposition in the preliminary finals.

But Hodge was careful not to join in the widespread talk about a Geelong-Hawthorn grand final.

"They're a pretty handy team, I guess there's no surprise how they've played, they've played that way for the last two years," Hodge said of Geelong.

"I wouldn't take anything away from St Kilda, they're still a great team, it's just Geelong were outstanding on the day.

"We're more focussed on either St Kilda or Collingwood at this stage - if it comes to that, that we do play them (Geelong), well, so be it.

"But at this stage, we're more focussed on this game, on Saturday night, and how these two teams play."

While Franklin was the star last Friday night, Hodge was also awesome across half-back.

He has no problem whether he stays in defence or goes back into the midfield.

For all the talk about the potency of Hawthorn's attack, it is a well-established truism that all premiership sides are built on a stable, rock-solid defence.

Led by key defender Trent Croad, Hawthorn's back six was the third-stingiest in the league during the regular season, behind Geelong and Adelaide.

Hodge's superb kicking was used to great effect against the Bulldogs as he continually set up team-mates downfield.

But Hodge said above all else, it was crucial that the Hawks kept winning contested possession.

"It's pretty-much what we did on Friday night - the contested ball is a major thing in finals footy and that's probably why Collingwood have been so good over the last couple of years," Hodge said.

"As long as we knuckle down and do what the coaches ask, we should go alright, hopefully."

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