One Hawks ruck faces grand final dumping - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

One Hawks ruck faces grand final dumping

By Adam Cooper 21/09/2008 04:52:08 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn are bracing to provide one of their ruckmen with the hard-luck selection tale of this year's AFL grand final, just as Geelong big man Mark Blake was unlucky to miss last year's decider.

While Blake and Brad Ottens form a settled ruck pair for the Cats in Saturday's grand final, the Hawks must decide between playing their proven pair of Robert Campbell and Simon Taylor, or sticking with bolter Brent Renouf.

Taylor missed rounds 12-14 with a gashed leg, but returned to partner Campbell in the closing rounds of the season, until the Hawks sat him out of the round 22 win over Carlton to rest.

That omission allowed Renouf, 20, to grab his chance and he has held his spot ever since, although he had little impact in Saturday night's win over St Kilda in the preliminary final.

Campbell, the one ruckman assured of playing, said the big men formed a tight bond, and that whoever missed out would be unlucky.

"We're very close and very supportive of each other, so whoever gets the role to go out on Saturday has the backing," he said.

"We're pretty close so we sympathise and empathise pretty heavily, but that's football and that's (the grand final) where the team aims to be start of the year.

"At this time of the year we're obviously pretty happy with the number of players we've got to choose from."

If selected, Renouf would play a grand final in just his eighth game, similar to former Hawk Greg Madigan, who earned a premiership medallion in the epic 1989 grand final - against the Cats - in just his sixth senior match.

Indicative of Hawthorn's style, the Queenslander is admired for his no-nonsense attack on contests, which will be pivotal against the reigning premier.

"He adds a bit of vibrancy and he hunts the ball and he's got a bit of aggro in him and he loves a contest," Campbell said.

"He's got a skinhead and he loves a bit of crash and bash."

Regardless of which pairing Hawthorn select, their clash against Ottens and Blake will determine which midfield gets first use of the ball in the stoppages.

That was the case last year when Ottens and Steven King - who replaced Blake for the 2007 grand final only to be traded to St Kilda a few days later - gave the perfect illustration of the physical presence needed in grand finals.

"It's very well-documented over the past however many years you want to go back that the ruck duels have always been pretty critical," Campbell said.

"We love a challenge, so let's go."

Provided stars Luke Hodge (ribs) and Lance Franklin (thumb) play, Hawthorn's other selection poser lays in defence, where Thomas Murphy will be out to prove he has overcome the back problem which cost him his place in the game.

Murphy has played 18 games this season, and took part in every match between round 12 and the qualifying final win over the Western Bulldogs.

But his injury made way for Stephen Gilham's return, after the key defender missed the win over the Bulldogs with a virus.

"Football is a funny game sometimes," Gilham said.

"It was just through misfortune that I missed a couple of weeks ago, and we've got a great side now that has a lot of depth."

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