To farewell loyal fans is not the only reason Hawthorn will welcome suspended ace Luke Hodge back for Sunday’s AFL game against North Melbourne in Launceston.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said the retiring former skipper is critical to organise an inexperienced defence that was exposed by Richmond’s relentless pressure last round.
“We missed him last week” Clarkson said.
“We’ve got a pretty young defence and they’ve acquitted themselves pretty well, but the wise, old counsel of Hodgy has assisted them enormously.
“He has had a rest, so, hopefully, he’s jumping out of his skin to play again.
“It (Tasmania) has been a home away from home for us for a long period of time, and he has been a big part of that.
“So, it will be a good chance to thank the fans down there.”
Clarkson reaffirmed 198cm second-year backman Kaiden Brand for the important role on Kangaroos forward Ben Brown.
“Brandy’s probably the only one down there who has got the reach to get anywhere near Browny,” Clarkson said.
“So, he’ll probably get first crack on him, but the way we defend, we’re going to need guys to help out at different stages.
“And that includes the midfield to apply pressure on the ball so it’s not giving easy access to Brown and others.
” … their midfield is still very, very strong. They’ve got some outstanding leaders and really strong ground-level players and (Todd) Goldstein is still a very threatening ruckman.
“We need to win that midfield battle so it doesn’t get to Brown. Even in their defence with (Robbie) Tarrant and (Scott) Thompson, they acquit themselves well.”
Clarkson said it was as important for prized recruit Jaeger O’Meara as much as the club for the injury-restricted midfielder to start back with VFL affiliate the Box Hill Hawks this weekend.
“We had to make sure the bone stress in his knee was fully repaired,” he said.
“Because there has been so much hysteria around his recruitment, I think it’s important for him and our footy club and supporters and just quietening down the hysteria on whether he’s ever going to return.”
“He gets a reminder of what it’s like to play footy again. He has played very little over three years now, so any game is fantastic for him.”