Hawks happy with Hodge shift - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hawks happy with Hodge shift

By Adam Cooper 24/07/2009 05:10:31 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson credits a settled defence for the luxury of being able to play his ace wherever he pleases as the Hawks chase a spot in the AFL finals.

While Stephen Gilham and Ryan Schoenmakers hardly represent the same formidable defensive duo that Chris Langford and Gary Ayres once did for the Hawks, their presence in the backline has allowed Luke Hodge to play in the midfield with devastating impact.

Hodge's re-emergence as one of the most influential play makers in the competition was obvious in the Hawks' past two wins over North Melbourne and Collingwood, which have rejuvenated the reigning premier's push to reach the finals.

Hodge won last year's Norm Smith Medal in the grand-final win over Geelong at half-back, but has been inspirational in the midfield the past two games, where he had a combined 59 disposals and booted five goals in the wins over the Kangaroos and Magpies.

Ahead of a massive clash against the Cats on Saturday, Clarkson said having a settled defence after so many injuries early in the campaign had been instrumental in releasing Hodge from the backline and into the thick of it.

"The inclusion of Schoenmakers and Gilham has given us a little bit more stability in our back half," Clarkson said on Friday.

"Being able to use Hodge through the middle has been a real benefit for us over the last couple of weeks.

"It gives us that flexibility to use Hodge half-back, forward or midfield, and with that flexibility we become a lot more damaging as a side.

"We've been a little bit reluctant to move him out of our back end for the bulk of the year because we've been so short down back, but with Gilham and Schoenmakers standing up in those areas, it just gives us a little bit more flexibility."

Clarkson refused to buy into any talk about a psychological edge the Hawks might hold over Geelong since last year's grand final, and whether a win over the Cats would send a shudder through the rest of the sides jockeying for a spot in the finals.

He was also evasive when asked if he expected Geelong stars Gary Ablett and Jimmy Bartel to play at the MCG.

Ablett is nursing calf soreness and Bartel missed last Saturday's win over Melbourne with hip soreness, but both have been named.

Clarkson admitted the drubbing of the Magpies had given the Hawks a major shot in the arm for Saturday's game, which could earn them a spot in the eight with a win.

"Collingwood had been in such good form and we hadn't been, so to get that victory was great for the confidence of the group," he said.

"We approach the Cats this week with a little bit more confidence than had we not been able to get over Collingwood."

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