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HAWTHORN defender Brian Lake believes his four-match suspension in the lead-up to September has helped his preparation for Saturday's Grand Final rematch against the Sydney Swans. 

After serving a three-game ban at the start of the season, Lake's campaign was then interrupted by calf and knee problems that allowed him to play only two games in the first three months. 

Having worked his way back into form, he snapped against North Melbourne in round 16 and was suspended for a month for a strangle-hold on Drew Petrie, further derailing his season and adding another hurdle for Hawthorn to get over. 

A chain of events that might have placed the 32-year-old's Grand Final chances in jeopardy has instead brought out his best form and Lake will enter Saturday's decider as one of the most important players on the ground. 

The 2013 Norm Smith medallist said he always knew "everything would come right", despite the setbacks.

"I knew the suspension was only four weeks so you've just got to take the positives out of it; I haven't had a break that close to finals in my career," Lake said on Sunday.

"So you freshen up the mind and the body, get four weeks of fitness in and I was always going to be better for it. 

"The injury, we got on top of that and we understood what was going on with the calf and the knee … I always had confidence I'd come back."

Lake's importance to the Hawks was underlined against Geelong in the qualifying final two weeks ago when he held Tom Hawkins to one goal. 

He wasn't at his best against Port Adelaide forward Jay Schulz on Saturday night, but made a crucial spoil in the final 10 seconds as the Power rallied. 

Having played in three losing preliminary finals with the Western Bulldogs between 2008 and 2010, Lake said he knew the pain Port Adelaide would have felt after its late charge fell three points short.    

He is likely to match up on powerful forward Kurt Tippett in Saturday's decider, and will enter the match having missed the Hawks' two clashes against the Swans this year.    

"I've played on [Franklin] a few times, and Tippett as well," he said.

"Tippett's probably more the stay-at-home type of forward and 'Buddy' likes to play up the ground a little bit more.

"[My opponent] probably depends how we want to structure as a defence – we've got (Josh) Gibson, we've got (Matt) Spangher and (Ryan) Schoenmakers is playing today in the VFL so he could be an option."

Having reached back-to-back Grand Finals with the Hawks, Lake said his move from the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2012 had been a "smart one". 

And after triumphing over Fremantle in 2013 as favourites, he said the Hawks would gladly let the Swans take that tag in 2014. 

"I think we'd be underdogs," he said. 

"We had a tough game last night but we look at that as a positive.

"We can still have composure under pressure and come out the other side.

"Being the underdog, hopefully a little bit more pressure goes on to Sydney."