PREMIERSHIP coach Alastair Clarkson says Hawthorn is an easy target after two "disappointing" losses and remains confident his side can be a flag contender.
Clarkson's comments come at the end of a week when one of his retired premiership stars, Jordan Lewis, questioned whether his former coach had the "energy" to go through a second rebuild if required.
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Lewis' comments stoked a firestorm of commentary around Clarkson's position, even knowing he has two seasons still to run on his contract.
"We've had to have the old building, construction hard hat on this week," Clarkson said on Saturday morning.
"We've copped it from left, right and centre, including (from) our old boys at the club, but that's the territory we play in.
"The game's based on wins and losses and we've lost two on the bounce now and are in disappointing form, so we're sort of easy targets, in a sense."
Asked directly on whether he was willing to go through a regeneration of the Hawks' list, Clarkson said it was "not actually my decision".
He conceded Hawthorn's list was "ageing" but they made the decision to push on with several veterans because they feel the club's best is "good enough to beat any team in the competition".
"At some point in time, I'm not going to be coaching this footy club," Clarkson said.
"I don't know whether that's going to be in 12 months' time or 20 years' time but what I do want to be part of is whenever that baton is changed to whoever is the next coach, the club is in a really good position."
The Hawks dropped 194-gamer Paul Puopolo for Sunday's clash with Melbourne – after leaving him out earlier this season as well – and blooded Harry Jones, Will Day and Josh Morris in the past two weeks.
Puopolo is in a similar spot to Jarryd Roughead last year, and sits agonisingly short of his 200-match milestone, but Clarkson said he still had an integral role to play, even if that's off-field.
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Another large part of the criticism during Hawthorn's poor fortnight, albeit after a promising 3-1 start in the face of a tough draw, was its laborious ball movement.
Clarkson said his players were arguably "too coachable", over-corrected last week on the mistakes they made against Greater Western Sydney and "more or less put ourselves to sleep".
"If anything, we're trying too hard – but in the process of trying too hard, you actually suffocate your thought process and don't play with flair," he said.
"That's what we saw last week, (with) only three goals for the game. It would have been helped a little bit, that low score, had we not kicked 1.7 in the last quarter, I might add."
Ben McEvoy will return to the ruck in Jon Ceglar's absence but Clarkson defended Ceglar's up-and-down form as owing to playing a "bloody hard" position.
Ceglar (toe), Jack Scrimshaw (ankle) and Jarman Impey (knee) could all return next week.