Hawthorn warms to last UTAS Stadium return for 2018 season

HOME TEAM: Hawks fans celebrate a Paul Puopolo goal at UTAS Stadium in the contest against Port Adelaide earlier this season. Picture: Phillip Biggs

HOME TEAM: Hawks fans celebrate a Paul Puopolo goal at UTAS Stadium in the contest against Port Adelaide earlier this season. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Tasmanian home ground advantage will be a factor, fan favourite Paul Puopolo admits, for Hawthorn’s must-win clash against an in-form Brisbane on Saturday. 

Despite talk of local support growing tired of the Hawks amid declining crowds, the eighth-placed team has lost twice and drawn once in its last 27 games at UTAS Stadium.

Puopolo said the return to Launceston is timely.

“I think playing there we have an advantage because we play there a lot. Very few teams play there once a year if they’re lucky,” he said.

“I know that Brisbane have played there a couple of times, but they’re not used to the climate so that is a bit of an extra advantage for us.”

After drawing 15,741 for a Saturday night match against the always-popular St Kilda, Hawthorn attracted 13,007 against top-four contender Port Adelaide before hitting an all-time Launceston low of just 9007 against struggling Gold Coast.

Attendances for the last four Lions’ appearances at UTAS Stadium dropped from 15,796 in 2013 to 12,430 in 2014, 11,731 in 2015 and 10,553 in 2017.

“I feel like the crowd can really help us over there too – they won’t have many supporters,” Puopolo said.

“It would be good to have our best turn-up [for the year] for us. This is going to be our last game in Tassie, so it would be good for our supporters to give us a bit of a boost.”

Brisbane’s poor ladder position is not indicative of the test, according to Puopolo.

Chris Fagan’s men are coming off heavy back-to-back victories over Fremantle away and Carlton home.

Brisbane’s breakthrough win back in round 9 came at the expense of the Hawks.

The 30-year-old small forward has ruled out any chance of complacency. 

“They gave us a real touch-up last game and we have a lot to prove. So we’re not taking them lightly because last time they destroyed us in the third quarter.

“It left us with our head scratching, so we owe them them one. Both teams will come out pretty hard. They have a point to prove and we’re playing for our finals, so it’s going to be fierce.”