JONATHAN Simpkin has done little wrong since his elevation to the Hawthorn side earlier in the season.

His work as the 'super sub' most weeks - and then 20 touches in three quarters against Essendon last week - has been stellar.

However, his omission from Saturday's MCG clash against Richmond makes it clear the Hawks are travelling well and they bat deep.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson admitted as much on Friday when he explained why Simpkin had made way for Shaun Burgoyne in the only selection change ahead of the clash with the Tigers.

"Shaun coming back into the side is really important for us and 'Joffa' Simpkin going out is unfortunate because he's been really good for us," he said before training at Waverley Park.

"But we're getting towards the pointy end of the year and Simpkin hasn't had a hell of a lot of game time so it's important for us that he gets it (in the VFL) so we can use him later in the year."

Burgoyne returns after serving a two-match suspension, but truth be told, will likely benefit from the opportunity to freshen up.

That's a key difference between this year and last for the Hawks, with Clarkson explaining once again that come last year's finals, his side had used most of its petrol tickets, having played catch-up footy after a tardy start to the year.

"By round nine last year we had lost four games so we had to work pretty hard to ensure we gave ourselves a top four berth and that took a lot of hard work and energy from the group," he said.

"We have stated quite clearly that our best footy wasn’t played in September last year. It was played in July and August and we are pleased we have been able to win games in June and July of this year without playing our best footy," he said.

Another bonus for the Hawks this year has been the slashing form of forward Jarryd Roughead, two years after his Achilles injury.

Roughead leads the Coleman Medal with 54 goals, but Clarkson played down suggestions he had become the most valuable player in the AFL.

"We play better footy when he's making contributions for us. In terms of his value for us, he can play a number of positions and that's been really handy for us.

"The other bonus for us is Max Bailey being available when he wasn't for the bulk of last season and that's allowed 'Roughy' to spend more time up forward and not in the ruck. We've been pleased with the roles he's been able to play," Clarkson said.

The Hawks were touched up badly by Richmond in their only meeting last year, a 65-point loss at the MCG in round nine.

Clarkson said he remains wary of Richmond's slick midfield and contested ball-winning ability, but said his side is also in good nick.

"Last week (a 56-point win over the Bombers) was probably the best we have played for some time. We need to produce our best footy when it is needed most and that is in September," he said.

Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. You can follow him on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne