Hawks' season similar to 2005: Clarkson - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hawks' season similar to 2005: Clarkson

13/08/2009 05:40:17 PM Comments (0)

Regardless of whether Hawthorn make the AFL finals, coach Alastair Clarkson feels they might have taken a step back in order to go a few forward.

The Hawks' premiership defence remains alive, despite last Saturday's upset loss to undermanned St Kilda in Launceston.

Other results fell Hawthorn's way and they are only one game outside the top eight with three rounds left.

Injuries have plagued Hawthorn and there has been more bad news this week, with key forward Jarryd Roughead to have season-ending knee surgery and Trent Croad needing another operation on his broken foot.

But Shane Savage will make his senior debut in Friday night's must-win clash against Adelaide at the MCG, becoming the sixth debutant this season for the Hawks.

Clarkson can see parallels to 2005, when the Hawks also blooded many youngsters who became key members of their 2008 premiership side.

"All types of opportunities present throughout the year in the AFL, some due to injury and some, poor form," he said.

"That's certainly been the case with us ... and some of our young guys have got fantastic exposure (to senior football).

"While that hasn't translated into many wins ... for us in 2009, somewhere down the track it's just like in 2005.

"We didn't have a great win-loss ratio, (but) the emergence of some of these kids was really important for us and I'd expect they'd become pretty important players in the years to come."

Clarkson said the Hawks would obviously miss Roughead, who combines with Lance Franklin to form one of the league's most dangerous key-forward combinations.

Midfielder Brad Sewell will return from a quad injury, with Jarryd Morton and Beau Muston the other inclusions.

The Hawks dropped Beau Dowler, Tom Murphy and Brendan Whitecross.

"It's pretty difficult to cover a big brute like that in our front half," Clarkson said of Roughead.

"He has played a lot of footy for us and very consistently over a long period of time.

"We'll just have to mix and match a little down there with a different type of forward structure and see how we go."

Clarkson has also repeated his message that the Hawks are focused on developing their team and trying to play better, rather than making the finals.

"I think the AFL are giving consideration to just having a top seven, because no one seems to want that eighth spot," he joked.

"We've been searching for it and I know Essendon and Port and obviously Sydney now are in contention too.

"I know the first couple of spots are shorn up, but the rest of the eight is really interesting in terms of how it's going to unfold - great for the AFL and the spectators, not so great for the clubs and players."

The Hawks coach was also upbeat about Croad, one of their most important players, who originally broke his foot in the grand final win over Geelong.

Croad will not play at all this season.

"He's okay. What we can't deny and we haven't all along is that the injury that he got in the grand final was very, very serious," Clarkson said.

"He has found this period particularly tough, but he'll have the surgery over this little while and hopefully there's a really good outcome with it.

"He's very optimistic and so is the surgeon that he'll return to play AFL footy."

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