Alastair Clarkson
Alastair Clarkson

Premiership favourites Hawthorn are bracing themselves for Saturday's top-of-the-table clash with Sydney at the SCG, the first of two serious challenges for the Hawks before the finals.

The Hawks take on the Swans in a mouth-watering clash before their final fixture of the season against West Coast at the MCG, both of which will have a significant bearing on the make-up of the top four.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was adamant his side are up for the challenge and cast a confident figure with key trio Lance Franklin, Sam Mitchell and Josh Gibson returning to the side.

"There's more to draw out of this game to see where we're at because we're facing a formidable opponent that we know we're probably going to have to face again if we want to salute at the end of the year," Clarkson said on Friday.

"Sydney are looking at it the same as us, they're playing against us knowing full well that anything they do tomorrow they're probably going to have to repeat in the finals if they want to get the job done and win the flag.

"That's what makes it such an intriguing contest and that's why we've got such a big media throng here today.

"We're looking forward to it. Sydney have been a great side all year and they're very well coached. They've got a really experienced and disciplined group of players."

Franklin has been absent for the past six weeks but is said to be raring to go after several solid weeks on the track.

"We just look at our ins, really pleased Josh Gibson returns, Buddy comes back in for us as well Sam Mitchell," Clarkson said.

"They're three influential players for us and we know when they play we're a better football side.

"If they all come in and play their roles for the team we'll be pleased, there's been a lot of hype about Lance in particular but it's all about getting the job done for the side.

"In his absence we've had guys that have been able to fill his role quite capably and we've still been able to score but as I said last week, there wouldn't be a (opposition) coach in the land that would be pleased that Lance Franklin's playing, so we're absolutely rapt to have him back."

Clarkson believes the trip to Sydney will leave his team well-placed if they are required to travel again during the finals series.

"It's a really good test for us. We're really pleased we get to travel late in the season, you never know if you'll have to travel in the finals series," he said.

"Against good opposition it's a really good travel challenge ... a home-and-away fixture that's going to bring a lot for us."


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