AFL hub life a hard slog for Hawthorn

Hawthorn's AFL form slump has coincided with them leaving Victoria and coach Alastair Clarkson admits it's been hard to turn things around.

ALASTAIR CLARKSON, Senior Coach of the Hawks.
ALASTAIR CLARKSON, Senior Coach of the Hawks. Picture: Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson reckons AFL hub life is a young man's game and he's racking his brain to figure out how to get the experienced Hawks out of their current form funk.

Clarkson has come under heavy fire during Hawthorn's four-match losing run, which has left them in 15th place with a 3-5 record.

The losing streak has coincided with the club leaving Victoria and Clarkson admits it's been a struggle.

After playing and losing four matches in NSW, the Hawks are now in Perth, where they'll lock horns with Carlton at Optus Stadium on Friday night.

The Hawks have made four changes, headlined by the return of Jarman Impey from an ACL tear.

All-Australian forward Luke Breust (fractured jaw), key forward Tim O'Brien (ankle) and ruckman Jon Ceglar (fractured toe) also return, with Clarkson dropping Mitch Lewis, Josh Morris, Darren Minchington, and Keegan Brooksby.

Carlton recalled fit-again forward Harry McKay as a straight swap for Mitch McGovern (hamstring).

Hawthorn have one of the oldest lists in the competition and Clarkson says he needs to figure out how to get them back into form in a foreign environment.

"The last eight games of last year, we won six of those games ... including victories against GWS, West Coast, Collingwood, and Geelong," Clarkson said.

"We thought there was some blue sky. And then we started this season 3-1, including victories over Richmond and Brisbane.

"We left on the road 3-1 and we're now 3-5.

"Now I'm not complaining about the hub, the players aren't complaining about it.

"But it's made it very difficult for us to find our best form and for us to try to turn it around what has been pretty scratchy form."

Clarkson pointed to West Coast's struggles during their Gold Coast hub as proof about how tough it is for experienced groups to perform well living away from family.

"In the first instance I thought the experienced playing groups would be really strong," Clarkson said.

"But it seems to be that this hub environment is better suited to the younger ones.

"We've just battled a little bit I think."

A big focus of Friday's match will be how star Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps is treated by the Hawks and the umpires.

Cripps was clearly held off the ball several times in last week's seven-point win over North Melbourne, with the Blues raising the issue with the umpiring department this week.

"Look, it's got a little bit of media attention this week but this is quite common," Blues coach David Teague said.

"In terms of the umpiring, I feel like they're doing their best and it's very hard to watch every contest at once."


AAP