HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson has taken aim at his "fourth-rate" midfield unit that he admitted stopped running in the 61-point loss to Geelong on Friday night.
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Missing Jaeger O'Meara with a face fracture, the thin Hawks onball brigade was exposed as the Cats stormed home after half-time, kicking 10 of the last 11 goals.
"They've got a strong midfield, but our midfield lowered their colours tonight," Clarkson said.
"They won inside the contest and then smacked us on the outside.
"When you lose in both facets of the game it's hard to come back from and to their credit, they played outstanding footy and made us look, I couldn't even say second-rate, maybe third or fourth-rate.
"We ran out of space and because we ran out of space, we ended up not running anywhere near to the intensity or the effort of the Geelong side.
"When you get smacked around the ball like we did tonight, you'll (media) find all sorts of reasons; too slow, too tall, too old, they'll all come our way, we know that."
Clarkson remains hopeful O'Meara will get the green light from medicos to return to contact training and play against Richmond in six days' time.
However, the Hawks could be without veteran Shaun Burgoyne who will face Match Review scrutiny on Saturday for his dangerous sling tackle on Patrick Dangerfield.
Burgoyne wasn't reported but conceded a free kick.
"It didn't look great, (but) we'll wait and see what happens," Clarkson said.
"You've got two of the fairest ball players in the competition just going at each other, it's an unfortunate thing that happens in the game. Lucky 'Danger' got up and kept on playing so hopefully that works in Shaun's favour."
Geelong coach Chris Scott admitted he focused on the Hawks' lack of midfield depth when addressing his players at half-time.
"O'Meara not being available probably made them a little bit thin in their midfield," Scott said.
"In terms of the key messages, we thought if we were to get an advantage, it would be with a big spread through there. Those guys to a man, they were pretty even our midfield group, but they got control in the third quarter."
Captain Joel Selwood (28 disposals) dominated, Dangerfield (24) and Sam Menegola (23) were important while Quinton Narkle (15) and the returning Brandan Parfitt (11 contested) added quality depth.
Scott wouldn't commit to fellow midfielder Jack Steven debuting for the Cats next week against Carlton, with a tough decision to be made on who he edges out of the side.
"He trained pretty well today, and he has trained pretty well the last three weeks," he said.
"He's a bit like Parfitt for me, it's clear he's in our best team and we'd like to play him, it's just a matter of timing and then trying to work out who goes out.
"If he doesn't play (next week), it'll be a conservative call."