Main content

Hawks 'found wanting' against quality opponent: Clarko

Clarkson: 'Spirit crusher' pivotal but Hawks aren't far away Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says the game was delicately balanced in the third quarter

HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson remains impatient to re-emerge at the top of the AFL tree, but concedes his side was again "found wanting" on Sunday against a quality side.

The Hawks fell six goals short of Richmond, after back-to-back Luke Breust goals had shaved the deficit to just four points 10 minutes into the third term.

Game-ending injuries to big men Ben McEvoy (right ankle) and Mitch Lewis (concussion) offered some excuse, much like the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda games earlier in the year.

TIGERS TOPPLE HAWKS Full match coverage and stats

However, Clarkson, who labelled his team "middle of the road" a fortnight ago, told reporters post-match that there was more to the result than just that.

"It probably showed the gap between us and Richmond at the present time," Clarkson said.

"The final margin was probably a good reflection of the quality of ball use of one side opposed to the other.

GAMEBREAKER Dusty rediscovers his damaging best

"All the stats and the contest itself was reasonably even in terms of opportunities – similar inside 50s, similar possession of the ball, similar scoring shots – but at half-time they're 6.6 and we're 3.8.

"Part of that is just not getting reward and bang for buck for the opportunities you had. They made some mistakes, too, but by and large they probably just made a few less errors than what we did."

Clarkson referred to the Tigers' superior "polish" multiple times, which he explained was part of the sacrifice while pumping games into the club's youth.

ANALYSIS Is Dusty back to his 2017 best?

Hawthorn fielded seven players aged 21 or younger, in Harry Morrison, James Worpel, Lewis, Conor Glass – a late inclusion for James Frawley (hamstring) – Jack Scrimshaw, Dylan Moore and James Cousins.

None of them have played 30 AFL games.

"We need to just keep chipping away and working at it," Clarkson said.

WATCH Alastair Clarkson's full post-match press conference

"This group for the Tiges have been going at it for a fair while now. (They have) a lot of players who are pretty experienced playing with each other and some of our young blokes need to get games into them.

"I had six or eight young fellas today who are still trying to master their craft and it's great exposure for them – MCG, big crowd, good opponent and they did some valuable things for us today.

"But they also did some things they know they're going to need to have to get better if they're going to try and cut it with these good sides like Richmond."

Clarkson was reluctant to name who was leading the way for the untried crop, but Jackson Ross kicked another three goals in the VFL curtain-raiser earlier on Sunday.

First-year draftee Mathew Walker is also showing promise, as are rookie-listed trio Harry Jones, Oliver Hanrahan and Changkuoth Jiath.

"We just have to get the balance right with the amount of senior guys with the younger guys, but we have some talent there," Clarkson said.

"We're just giving them the opportunity for exposure at senior level and you can't play them all at the one time, so we need to get our balance right."

McEvoy and Lewis are both in doubt for Saturday's clash with Port Adelaide, and Clarkson offered no guarantees of Isaac Smith (foot), Chad Wingard (hamstring) or Frawley returning.

It would be Wingard's first game against his old side if he recovers in time.