HAWTHORN is wary of a Gold Coast side riding high after its monumental triumph over Geelong, according to its Tasmanian running defender Grant Birchall.
The two-time premiership player from Devonport yesterday said the best way for the Hawks to restrict the Suns' potent midfield, which includes superstar Gary Ablett, would be to ensure they dominate the hard ball.
"They are really strong particularly around the middle of the ground with the contested ball and their clearances, as their goals from stoppages really stand out," Birchall said at Aurora Stadium yesterday.
"We'll have to be right on our game in that area and try to restrict their forward entries and win the battle through the middle of the ground.
"It will be a tough game as they have really improved since round 4 (when Hawthorn won by 99 points at Metricon Stadium) and their confidence will be high, and we'll have to be ready from the first bounce."
Birchall reflected the thoughts of interim coach and fellow Tasmanian Brendon Bolton, who said the contested ball would be a "big battle" today when the second-placed Hawks host the eighth-placed Suns.
"But we think we've got a really good midfield ourself and that's an exciting challenge for us and we look forward to it," Bolton said.
Gold Coast assistant coach and former Tasmanian Andy Lovell said it would be a big test for the expansion club, who would edge closer to a maiden finals series if it was to take home the four points.
"(In round 4) they were just terrific with the tempo of the game, we got caught inside a little bit and they spread on us pretty hard and we didn't defend the way we wanted to defend," Lovell said.
"We're under no illusions of how difficult the job is going to be, but we're looking forward to it."
Lovell said Launceston's Jesse Lonergan would play a high half- forward and midfield role in his first game of the season after a broken wrist and hamstring issues.
Yesterday also gave Birchall the opportunity to catch up with Gold Coast's Rising Star favourite Kade Kolodjashnij, two players who have similar roles off half back and both operate with a precise left foot.
"He's a pretty good mover who can kick the footy really well," Birchall said.
Today's game starts at 1.45pm with some rain predicted.