New breed 'ready to step up' at Hawks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

New breed 'ready to step up' at Hawks

By Roger Vaughan 20/02/2009 05:35:06 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn's side for their round-one AFL pre-season match reflects the much-discussed strength of the recruiting under premiership coach Alastair Clarkson.

Despite missing nine players from last year's grand final line-up, including Shane Crawford through retirement and stars such as Lance Franklin and Luke Hodge, the Hawks will still field a very competitive side against Melbourne on Saturday in Launceston.

Top draftees Ryan Schoenmakers and Liam Shiels will make their Hawthorn debuts and several players who could not break into the grand final team have come into the squad.

Clarkson said it is those eight to 10 players just outside the best 22, such as Travis Tuck, Simon Taylor and Thomas Murphy, who will be crucial in the Hawks' premiership defence.

"We've got a group of probably eight to 10 players who have been around our footy club for two to three years now, who are hungry to take the next step," Clarkson said.

"If we can get those guys to consolidate senior positions, then it puts great pressure on the rest of the group to step up as well.

"That's where we're looking for our improvement to come from over the early part of the season."

The Hawks coach added Schoenmakers and Shiels had impressed in their first pre-season at an AFL club.

"The one thing that we've been pleased about with those two lads in particular is they have the bodies that can withstand the rigours of the game," he said.

"They're young, young players, of course, but they've been able to withstand a fair amount of the pre-season training.

"We took them with our first two picks, so they're highly-rated by our recruiting staff."

Once again, Melbourne will start their NAB Cup campaign against the reigning regular-season premiers, but they are in much better shape than this time last year.

Geelong smashed the Demons in round one last year at Skilled Stadium.

Melbourne has enjoyed a much better pre-season this time and will field a strong squad, with Brock McLean and Aaron Davey set to play.

New draftee Rohan Bail is also in the squad.

Clarkson said he was pleased with how his team had dealt with the premiership celebrations, saying they appeared to have prepared well for their title defence.

"All we can go on is the attitude of the guys and the way they approach their work - nothing has changed from the work they have put in over the last three or four pre-seasons," he said.

"Only time will tell with that, of course, but we've been really pleased with the preparation."

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