HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson has thrown down the gauntlet to Port Adelaide, questioning the Power's hunger to bring a tough brand of football on a week-to-week basis.

Speaking ahead of Thursday night's clash, the four-time premiership coach admitted the Hawks had been "ambushed" by the Power's physicality in two defeats last year.

And Clarkson welcomed Port's challenge this time around, setting the scene for a brutal contest at Adelaide Oval.

"They've played some good footy, but we've been particularly disappointing in those games too," Clarkson said at Melbourne Airport.

"They've ambushed us a little bit with their physicality and their starts to games and we need to be ready for that.

"They're probably smarting a little bit from the preliminary final loss two years ago, that's probably fuelled a lot of their motivation to play over the last couple of times we've played them, particularly last year.

"But it's very, very hard to do that on a sustainable basis and we like to think we've proved ourselves over a long period of time from week-to-week playing tough, hard footy.

"And Port Adelaide are yet to prove that they can do that on a week-to-week basis.

"So even those comments themselves will fuel a little bit of spite and we'll say 'Righto, well, it's game on' and it is game on.

"We're ready to come and play."

Port booted eight goals to one in the first term on Anzac Day before hanging on to win by eight points at home last season, and then dented Hawthorn's top-two hopes with a shock victory at Etihad Stadium in round 21. 

Thursday's clash could have a finals-like intensity, with the ninth-placed Power two wins outside the top eight and battling to keep their season alive, while the Hawks are defending top spot and preparing to be hunted. 

"That's what's held us in great stead come finals time because we can endure and withstand whatever's thrown at us," Clarkson said.

"There's no more hostile environment than Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval tomorrow night. 

"We'll embrace it. It's going to be on, but let's get ready for it."

Hawthorn is tracking perfectly towards a tilt at a fourth-straight flag and Clarkson dismissed concerns his regenerating side is yet to string together multiple four-quarter performances.

"We're not concerned with four-quarter efforts really because we know we're coming up against good sides and it's very, very difficult," he said.

"We quite often use the analogy with our players about two champions playing each other in tennis.

"It's very rarely that it's straight sets." 

The Hawks will be refreshed by last week's bye and boosted by the return of Cyril Rioli. 

The dynamic small forward is back from his grandfather's funeral in Darwin and was on the flight to Adelaide on Thursday, as was injured forward Ryan Schoenmakers.

But Clarkson ruled out a shock return for the 195cm big man, who hasn't played senior football since round three due to a "grumbly" groin.

"He's got a groin complaint and he's probably just travelling back to Adelaide to watch our players and spend some time with his family," Clarkson said. 

"He's indefinite at this point in time, we're not certain when he's going to play again.

"He's just scratching along at the minute, hopefully he gets some improvement in the next month or so."

Power coach Ken Hinkley's response to Clarkson's questioning of Port's ability to play hard football week after week was emphatic.

"He's right," Hinkley said.

The coach is no stranger to questions over his side's consistency - he's typically been the one asking them in public.

Port's form at times in 2016 has mirrored that of its 2013/14 seasons, but the club hasn't been able to maintain its best for long enough.

Hinkley said he and his players had identified some areas that would help the side find a better level of reliability, but until it did, it was tough to argue with Clarkson's assessment.

"There's … some evidence to support that we are what we are a little bit, and that's just a little bit up and down," he said.

"To get credibility you have to do it consistently and at the moment we're not being able to do that."