Hawthorn's Grant Birchall and his teammates are out to make the most of the grand final opportunity. Pictures: GETTY IMAGES
MAKING the most of its opportunities will be Hawthorn's mantra in Saturday's grand final, Tasmanian defender Grant Birchall says.
emIt is a philosophy that should be close to the Hawks' hearts following Friday night's epic five-point preliminary final win over Geelong, where poor work in front of the sticks almost cost them the game.
The Hawks kicked 14.18 from 64 inside 50s, with many of their misses certainly in the ``gimme'' category.
But more so their mind will be on how it cost them dearly in last year's decider when they kicked 11.15 to Sydney's 14.7 in their heartbreaking 10-point loss.
``That's what big games are all about, making the most of your opportunities,'' the 25-year-old from Devonport said yesterday.
``If you don't take them, it can really come back to haunt you. We understand we missed some very easy opportunities last night, and it is something we will address this week.
``We have our game review on Monday and it is something I imagine Clarko will address this week and hopefully it is something we can get right by Saturday.''
Birchall is preparing for his third grand final, having played in the club's 2008 premiership and last year's loss, with time not diminishing the excitement levels of the day for the 14th pick in the 2005 national draft.
``It's an exciting week and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play in another grand final,'' he said.
``We've got a lot of experience now and we'll just enjoy the week and take it how it comes, as long as we learn from the past, we'll be ready to go come Saturday.
``We want to take this opportunity and grab it with both hands.
``That feeling from last year still burns in the guts a little bit, so we're going to make sure that doesn't happen again and give it absolutely everything we've got come Saturday.''
Birchall has played 16 games this season, averaging 24 touches a game, having spent some time on the sidelines after injuring the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in round 13.
He enters the AFL's big dance in good form, having collected 27 touches at a disposal efficiency rate of 85.2 per cent.
His two grand finals have been contrasting outings.
In 2008, as a youngster in just his third season, he collected 23 touches as an important part of that winning team.
Last year, as an All-Australian defender, he had very little impact as the Swans limited him to just 14 disposals.
But the 168-gamer said nothing beats the feeling of running on to the MCG on the last Saturday in September.
``You've got the crowd behind you and it is a really big occasion, so you definitely get butterflies and you are definitely anxious and nervous about the whole situation,'' Birchall said.
``But you just have to keep calm, focus on what's in front of you and stay in the moment.
``But I'm just looking to enjoy the week, enjoy the day and give it 100 per cent.''
The Hawks will go into battle on Saturday without one of its warriors in Brendan Whitecross, who for the second year in a row suffered a serious knee injury in the finals.
``It is devastating for him,'' Birchall said.
``You feel for him, but he has been fantastic. He was really positive last night and getting around all the boys and all he wants is the boys to win.
``His leadership off-field has been fantastic and his work around the mids and the defenders has been great, so he's still going to be able to hold his head high.''
But Lance Franklin, who hyper-extended his elbow against the Cats, is expected to play.
Birchall also said if successful, the club would bring the premiership cup to Tasmania in the week after the grand final, as it did in 2008.