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Hawks out to muzzle Dogs' AFL finals hopes

3 minute read

Hawthorn are doing much better under new coach Sam Mitchell than their 4-9 record suggests and they loom as a significant test for the Western Bulldogs.

Hawks coach SAM MITCHELL.
Hawks coach SAM MITCHELL. Picture: Daniel Pockett/via Getty Images

Hawthorn will play a key role in shaping the AFL top eight and they will fancy their chances of a crucial upset win over the Western Bulldogs.

In their first season under coach Sam Mitchell, the Hawks have done much better than their 4-9 record suggests.

Their scalps include Brisbane and Geelong and they pushed reigning premiers Melbourne hard in a 10-point loss.

Mitchell's coaching has the Hawks asking serious questions of their opposition and Friday night's clash at Marvel Stadium is a significant test for the Bulldogs.

Last year's grand finalists are one game out of the top eight and have games coming up against Brisbane, Sydney, St Kilda, Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle - all above the Bulldogs on the ladder.

Luke Beverige's men have won four of their last five and will start favourites, but Tim English (concussion) and Taylor Duryea (knee) add to their injury headaches and Bailey Smith is in the midst of his four weeks of suspensions.

It also remains to be seen whether Cody Weightman will play, a week after dislocating an elbow.

Their forward line in particular is proving impossible to settle, with Josh Bruce on the verge of returning from injury.

For Beveridge, it all comes down to self-belief and system.

"As long as we kick a winning score, that's all that matters," Beveridge said.

"Will it settle down? I'm a great believer that you're pretty fortunate and lucky if you can ever settle a forward line down, especially with our attrition rate at the moment.

"So it just comes back to style of play, chemistry and being on the same page. It will continue to evolve.

"It's definitely convincing ourselves that there's a positive in it, in that we might be able to score differently and we still might be able to score as fluently."

Forwards Josh Schache and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan returned for last week's successful shoot-out against GWS, which featured 35 goals,

Beveridge said they played their roles against the Giants and could be called on to be more prominent in attack to support Aaron Naughton.

"Who knows, it might be 'Schach' or 'Marry's' turn this week to hit the scoreboard a little bit more often, as long as they keep presenting and getting themselves in the right spots," Beveridge said.

The Bulldogs coach is also pleased that inexperienced players such as Rhylee West and Bhuku Kamis are stepping up when needed.

"Say two months ago, are we throwing them to the wolves a little bit? Are they really ready?," Beveridge said.

"The promising thing is, they've really been solid contributors."

Beveridge said the Bulldogs did not defend well enough through the middle of the ground against GWS and that will be a key again in Friday's must-win clash.

"It's a bit like last week against the Giants - both teams play a really attacking brand of footy where they're going to take you on and we have to be ready for it," he said.

Hawthorn made six changes - mid-season draftee James Blanck will debut alongside Mitch Lewis, Jarman Impey and James Worpel, who all return, with Sam Frost and Chad Wingard among those unavailable through injury.

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