FREMANTLE will have to do more than just shutdown in-form midfielder Sam Mitchell if it is going to get past Hawthorn in Friday night's preliminary final, according to Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson.
The Dockers have been considering recalling run-with player Ryan Crowley for the blockbuster clash at Domain Stadium after 12 months on the sidelines because of a doping suspension.
The 31-year-old becomes eligible to play today (Thursday) and has a strong record against Mitchell, but Clarkson said a star performance from his 2015 All Australian wasn't the key to his team progressing through to the Grand Final.
"He's played some good footy for us, but we'd like to think we've got a pretty strong and flexible midfield," Clarkson said as the Hawk flew out of Melbourne on Thursday morning.
"Last year we were able to perform really well when he missed a big slab of games. We were still able to get the job done with depth in our midfield.
"Whether Mitch plays to his absolute best or not we still think we get games of footy won.
"We're hoping that will be the case this week irrespective of whether Crowley plays or not."
Crowley tagged Mitchell in the 2013 Grand Final and kept the onballer to 12 possessions, but the Hawks found a way to get on top in the midfield and won by 15 points.
Clarkson said he was not focusing his preparation on the Docker stopper, who hasn't been ruled out by coach Ross Lyon and could be named to continue the intrigue.   
"We're just prepared for 22 Fremantle players," Clarkson said.  
"We'll have a look at their side when it gets selected this evening. It could be that he's named emergency and comes in late, who knows.
"All you preparation is around your 22 and dealing with 22 Fremantle opposition. We'll deal with that later on when we need to."
Hawthorn has created selection intrigue of its own by flying three ruckmen to Perth.
Jon Ceglar was part of the Hawks' contingent that was delayed at Melbourne airport on Wednesday and Ben McEvoy and David Hale flew out on Thursday.
Ceglar hasn't played at any level in two weeks because of a VFL bye and illness, and he hasn't featured in the AFL since round 19.
"We'll probably just be taking the two in, but we've taken the squad across there and we'll work out our squad by 5pm today," Clarkson said when asked if he could select all three big men.
Hawthorn's past four preliminary finals – against Port Adelaide, Geelong, Adelaide and Collingwood – have been decided by less than a goal and Clarkson was preparing for another tight affair.
"You wouldn't want it any other way leading into a Grand Final," he said.

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