HAVING witnessed Geelong continue to defy the AFL cycle, Alastair Clarkson admits a depleted Hawthorn will be in strife on Easter Monday unless it can maintain a sustained effort.
Fourth-quarter fade-outs have twice cost the Hawks this season with last week's loss to St Kilda following a similar pattern to the round two defeat to Western Bulldogs.
The Hawks will welcome back star midfielder Jaeger O'Meara from a week off due to hip soreness but the continued absence of Shaun Burgoyne, Liam Shiels, James Frawley, Grant Birchall and Tom Mitchell has posed challenges.
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"In the last part of games we've been found out a little bit, because our younger players are finding it hard to get through four quarters of sustained footy," Clarkson said on Sunday.
"Part of it is actually digging in when you're a little bit tired and understanding the demands of the game.
"Probably we just 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.
"If we're not tough enough for long enough against the Cats we're going to be in a bit of a strife."
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Geelong suffered its first setback of the season last week when it lost at home by four points to an inspired GWS.
With the Cats enjoying terrific production from first-year players and off-season recruits to sit second on the ladder, Clarkson lauded the club's list management.
"They've been a quality outfit for a long period of time because they continue to try to bring new talent into their footy club that complements the group they've already got," he said.
"That's why they've been able to consistently sustain a high level of performance over a long period of time."
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The Hawks have confirmed three changes for the Easter Monday game with O'Meara, Mitchell Lewis and Kaiden Brand replacing Frawley, Jonathon Ceglar and David Mirra.
O'Meara signed a four-year contract extension during the week and Clarkson paid tribute to the midfielder's ability to overcome years of injury struggles.
"He's had to cope with a fair amount of adversity," Clarkson said.
"As tough as it is to go through, that's rounded him as a person and as a footballer.
"He'd be mindful of that as he plays every game. He's got a gratitude and appreciation of the footy that he can play now."