THERE was little talk from Alastair Clarkson on Thursday about why Geelong has beaten his club in their last 11 meetings, but there was some acknowledgment that Hawthorn might need to go about things a bit differently when they meet at the MCG in the preliminary final.

By and large the Cats have been just that bit too good in every match between the clubs since the 2008 Grand Final, and have enjoyed a sprinkling of luck along the way.

But the Hawks have also brought about their own undoing on most occasions, most notably with their poor delivery into the forward line.

Too often, the Hawks rush their kicks inside 50 and put the ball on top of the heads of Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead, which plays right into the hands of Geelong defenders Harry Taylor and Tom Lonergan.

Rioli ready for Cat fight

Clarkson admitted before training on Thursday that the Hawks will need to be a bit smarter this time around. 

"Defence without doubt is the real strength of their side and we're going to have to be pretty smart with our ball use, but it will all depend on how we can control the ball," he said.

"If we do that well it will give us a great chance to find some targets inside 50."

He forecast that the winner on Friday night would be the team who works harder and smarter with possession in the forward half of the ground.

"When we go inside our half of the ground, Geelong has probably got the most attacking half-back line in the competition, so it will come down to which team can defend that part of the ground best.

"Hopefully it's us."

Like every Hawks-Cats game since (and indeed including) the 2008 Grand Final, it will be a game of momentum shifts.

"There will be times of the game where we are in control of the play and there will be times when Geelong are. We just have to minimise the damage when Geelong are in control and maximise our chances when we get our run at it," Clarkson said.

"We know their best is very, very good but we've also seen them not at their best in the last three or four weeks as well, so that's what happens at this time of year. You're up against quality sides and you're not going to have things on your terms for four quarters," he said.