Travis Cloke
Travis Cloke

A rejuvenated Travis Cloke could loom as the biggest obstacle for the Hawks in their blockbuster first qualifying final match-up with Collingwood on Friday night at the MCG, according to Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

The besieged Collingwood forward has endured a lean second half of the season amid strong speculation he will walk out on the club at the end of the year.

But on Saturday night he appeared to recapture the kind of form that saw him earn All-Australian honours last year.

Cloke collected a career-high 16 marks and booted 5.4 against Essendon, and that dominant performance right on the eve of the finals grabbed Clarkson's attention.

"It was noteworthy that Cloke played sensationally well for them on Saturday night against the Bombers," Clarkson said on Monday.

"If he's able to get the supply from their quality midfield, then he's going to be really difficult to contain."

Whether Cloke will be reunited with out-of-favour forward Chris Dawes in attack this week remains to be seen, but Clarkson is taking no chances.

"We'll have a look at both," Clarkson said when asked if he was planning for a Magpies team with or without Dawes.

"He's only missed the one week so we'll look at the structure of their side leading into last week's game and then what sort of structure they went with (against Essendon)."

Another potential quandary for Clarkson and his coaching team is the way Collingwood approach ruck contests.

In recent weeks the Magpies have opted to include just one recognised ruckman in their line-up which has seen the likes of defender Nick Maxwell and even midfielder Scott Pendlebury pinch-hit at stoppages.

And while that situation would seemingly play into Hawthorn's hands given David Hale and Jarryd Roughead have proven an effective ruck combination this season, Clarkson wasn't overly convinced.

"They've chosen on the weekend to play just (Darren) Jolly in the ruck and get some support with other players and we haven't seen them do that very often," Clarkson said.

"We don't know at this point in time whether that's a significant strength for them or whether it's something that we can try to expose.

"Sometimes when you use those strategies, it's more or less like you've got another midfielder in the middle of the ground for you."

The Hawks head into Friday night's clash without Brent Guerra who sustained what looked to be a season-ending hamstring injury last week, Clarkson saying the veteran defender would be 'sorely missed'.

"He's been a significant player for us Gooey (Guerra), he's been at our club for six or seven years now and a really experienced member of our back end," Clarkson said.

"Hopefully the depth of our squad will be able to cover Gooey ... he'll be sorely missed but you've just got to move on and replace him with another guy this week."

In better news for the Hawks, captain Luke Hodge declared his troublesome knee, which saw him miss 11 matches this year, has been feeling better with every match he's played since returning in Round 18.

Clarkson also confirmed Cyril Rioli was right to go after being eased back into the senior line-up last week against West Coast as a substitute following a shoulder injury while Jack Gunston would be fit to take on Collingwood despite hurting his ankle in the same match.

And the Hawthorn boss insisted star forward Lance Franklin was well and truly over his well-documented hamstring troubles.

"His first kick (against the Eagles) was from 60 metres out, so if there was anything too sore about it he wouldn't have been able to manage that kick I don't think. He's fine," Clarkson said.


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