How Hawks can take down all-star Cat midfield
Alastair Clarkson says his youthful Hawthorn midfield will have to be "tougher for longer" to overcome a superstar Geelong engine room on Easter Monday.
The Hawks have turned to a makeshift midfield brigade to cover injuries to star ballwinners Liam Shiels, Shaun Burgoyne and Tom Mitchell this season.
While the Hawks have remained competitive in each of their first four games, Geelong stars Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood and Tim Kelly will pose a huge onball challenge in the MCG blockbuster.
Clarkson said the Hawks' younger players had found it "hard to get through four quarters of sustained footy" in their fade-outs against the Dogs and Saints.
"We are going along OK without being brilliant, but we have got to be a little bit better than OK (against Geelong) though," Clarkson said.
"It's going to be a tough contest, but part of it is actually digging in when you are a little bit tired and understanding the demands of the game.
"We haven't been tough enough for long enough in key moments of games over the course of the last two or three weeks and that's cost us a couple of games.
"So if we are not tough enough for long enough against the Cats we are going to be in a bit of strife."
The Hawks have regained gun onballer Jaeger O'Meara for the Easter Monday clash, but remain reliant on youngsters James Worpel, 20, James Cousins, 21 and Daniel Howe, 23, to shoulder the centre clearance load.
The Hawks are ranked last in the league for total clearances over the first four rounds, but can meet the challenge against the Cats today, Clarkson said.
"We are learning all the time and they (young players) are getting great exposure," Clarkson said.
The Hawks were widely criticised for parting with two high picks to secure O'Meara in the trade period, but the former Gold Coast Sun has become one of the club's most important players.
Clarkson said O'Meara, who signed a four-year contract extension this week, had shown his immense character qualities coming back from a career-threatening knee injury.
"He's had to cope with a fair amount of adversity, and as tough as it is to go through that, it has rounded him as a person and as a footballer," he said.
"He understands the game brings up some tough challenges, and he's had to endure more than most, so he would be mindful of that every game.
"He's got a gratitude and an appreciation of the footy he can play now, and by and large, he's also learned an enormous amount about his body.
"He just needs to manage his way through games and seasons and training sessions.
"And he has got a much greater feel for how he can do that now, hopefully it means he can play more good footy for us over a long period of time."
Emerging full-back Kaiden Brand, 25, will replace James Frawley (hamstring) for the match-up on in-form spearhead Tom Hawkins, while big man Mitchell Lewis, 20, was called-up to play his third game in attack.
Clarkson said Lewis could provide a strong marking target in the absence of omitted back-up ruckman Jon Ceglar.
"He was a really talented young golfer, so he didn't spent a lot of time playing footy when he was a kid," he said.
"He's progressed in our Box Hill side over the course of the last two years and he gets another opportunity.
"He's a tall forward who can hopefully draw the footy and hopefully give us a chance to kick some goals."