HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson is not taking the Western Bulldogs lightly, as the team heads into today’s round 19 encounter at Aurora Stadium.
The reigning premier is coming off a win against highly fancied Sydney and has won its past 10 matches in Launceston.
However, both sides boast a 50-50 in Tasmania from two matches.
‘‘There’s been some really good performances in the last few weeks from sides that aren’t in the eight,’’ Clarkson said yesterday.
‘‘So if you’re not at your best then you can be shown up very, very easily.
‘‘If we don’t [play at our best] then we know the Bulldogs will really make us pay if we don’t bring that effort and intent.
‘‘We’ll be making sure we play to our best to try and negate some of the significant strengths that they have got in their side.’’
Hawthorn welcomes back ruckman David Hale and utility Matt Spangher at the expense of Jonathon Ceglar and Will Langford.
The Dogs have made three changes with Shaun Higgins, Sam Darley, and Tom Campbell returning.
Clarkson said he remained unsure of what position Spangher would play.
‘‘Perhaps we’ve been a little bit shorter than we would have liked over the last few weeks in (Brian) Lake’s absence and then Spangher’s absence,’’ he said.
‘‘We like to have that flexibility in our side and we’ve been unable to have that over the last few weeks.
‘‘We’ll just have to see how the Bulldogs structure up in their front end as to whether Spangher plays back or forward.’’
The Bulldogs are ranked 14th on the ladder and the Hawks have the opportunity to remain equal top with a win at rounds-end.
Clarkson said winning the minor premiership for the third consecutive year was not as a priority as securing a top four position.
‘‘We’ve finished on top in the past two years and one year we won it [premiership] and the other year we finished runner up so it’s hard to take a gauge it.
‘‘But all we do know is that top four is pretty important if you can get yourself into the top four, it gives you a much better launching pad into the last part of September.’’