Alastair Clarkson
Alastair Clarkson

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson believes recent tough wins over Sydney and West Coast have provided his team with the perfect preparation for Friday's huge clash with Collingwood.

The Hawks completed their home-and-away campaign with four straight wins and 11 victories from their final 12 matches to seal their first minor premiership in 23 years.

But while Clarkson has been delighted with his team's overall form for much of the campaign it was the manner of the seven-point win over the Swans at the SCG and then the 25-point defeat of the Eagles at the MCG that pleased him most.

"We've been really pleased with the last couple of games that we've had to play against finals-bound sides like Sydney - which was interstate of course - and then West Coast Eagles," Clarkson said.

"We're happy with that preparation and we know we've got another formidable opponent again tomorrow night in Collingwood.

"So we need to play at our best to win the game of footy and Collingwood need to do the same to beat us too.

"It promises to be a cracker."

Clarkson actually believes the intensity of the past two matches means that the step up from home-and-away to finals football will not quite be as stark as it usually is.

"Yeah that's what happens in finals footy (the step up in intensity) but we've seen that with the last two weeks too and that's why they've been great preparations for us against Sydney and West Coast," he added.

"We haven't had it on our terms for the whole four quarters and very rarely do you have it that way in finals.

"There's going to be patches of the game where we're on top tomorrow night, there's going to be patches of the game where Collingwood are on top and it's just can you make the most of your opportunities when you've got the momentum and try to negate the influence that they can have when they get it?

"They're very, very hard sides to try and hold down for four quarters, we just hope that we can hold them a little bit more than what they can hold us."

Clarkson was unwilling to single out either Lance Franklin or Cyril Rioli for the impact they might have, particularly in Franklin's case after he missed their 47-point win over the Pies in Round 17.

But he was confident that if they 'perform a role', along with their team-mates, they can win the game.

And Clarkson is far from surprised about Travis Cloke's big return to form last week against Essendon after a lean spell, Cloke having taken 16 marks and booted five goals.

"Irrespective of what others have spoken about Trav, we know his talents and we prepare for Travis Cloke at his best not at his worst," Clarkson said.

"That's the way coaches always plan in my view so we know what we saw last week is what we usually expect from Travis.

"We've got to prepare for that and make sure our strategies can try and combat that.

"It's going to be tough, he's a big unit but we'll give it our best shot."


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