Blues, Hawks clash ahead of AFL finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Blues, Hawks clash ahead of AFL finals

Roger Vaughan 18/08/2011 05:33:23 PM Comments (0)

Carlton and Hawthorn are two top-four AFL teams coping well with significant structural problems in their lineups.

How well they can exploit the other's weakness in their blockbuster clash on Friday night at Etihad Stadium will be an obvious form guide for the finals.

The Hawks are third despite losing ruck-forward Jarryd Roughead and key defenders Stephen Gilham and Ben Stratton with season-ending injuries.

There was only one change for the match, with fourth-placed Carlton regaining key defender Michael Jamison from the knee injury that has kept him out since round 14.

They remain unsure when key forward Jarrad Waite will be back as he continues to struggle with a hip injury.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson made no secret on Thursday that they are keen to regain ruckman Brent Renouf as quickly as possible.

Renouf has been out of action since round 12 due to gall bladder surgery.

"We'd like to have three or four of the big blokes up and going. We've been just holding our breath a little bit, in case one of those big blokes go down with 'Roughy' missing for the rest of the year," Clarkson said.

"You need to make sure you've got depth in that area - how that pans out in the next few weeks will just depend on form and opposition.

"To have three or four guys that you can possibly select to play ruck for you is pretty important."

The stakes are high in this match, particularly for the Blues.

Hawthorn are half a game ahead of Carlton who, in turn, are half a game in front of West Coast.

The Blues are in danger of losing fourth spot and the double chance because they have a bye next week, while Hawthorn and the Eagles have three games left.

So they must keep winning and hope the Eagles somehow slip up.

"In the context of where the teams finish and obviously West Coast breathing down both our necks, it's a pretty important game," Clarkson said.

"We've prepared well, both teams are coming off a six-day break, it's pretty even in that regard.

"Both teams are pretty evenly-matched in terms of their performances over the last little while - it promises to be a great game."

One of the highlights will be two of the AFL's top midfields going head-to-head.

Chris Judd and Marc Murphy are obvious standouts for Carlton, but Clarkson is impressed with the form of lieutenants such as Kade Simpson, Heath Scotland and Andrew Carrazzo.

"You just have to be mindful of all their players, you just can't be focusing on one or two," Clarkson said.

"We also need to put some time into Judd and Murphy, because they've been in such good form for them, but it's really been the whole balance of their midfield that's been their great strength."

Hawthorn have key forward Lance Franklin and dynamic utility Cyril Rioli as potential game breakers.

Even if Jamison and Lachie Henderson can put the brakes on Franklin, Rioli is capable of breaking a tight game open with a couple of timely goals.

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