Hawks aim to step up as AFL favourites

·2-min read

Sam Mitchell has urged Hawthorn to embrace the fresh challenge of going into their AFL clash with traditional rivals Essendon as favourites.

Days after Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks conceded his side buckled under the same weight of expectation, Mitchell wants the Hawks to tackle it head on at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.

The first-year coach addressed the unfamiliar situation with his playing group in their team meeting on Wednesday.

"We can't afford ever to go into a game and not be the ones going after the opposition," Mitchell said.

"You look at the way Melbourne have been able to do that; they go in favourite every single week and they are a team that continues to produce high-level effort.

"We've gone into most games this year as an underdog and so it's easy to get yourself up.

"This week we've got to have exactly the same attitude and that's a new challenge for us which we don't want to ignore, but we don't want to make it a (major) focus either."

Essendon are already desperate, with their finals hopes already slim, and have attracted scathing criticism during a horror 1-6 start to the season.

Former Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge joined the chorus of critics saying the heat is on the Bombers' leaders to inject some excitement into the playing group.

"When you watch them play it looks a little bit lifeless," Hodge said on SEN radio.

"It looks like they're just mundane and going through the motions.

"At AFL level you soon get caught out and when you sit there at 1-6 that's exactly what it looks like from afar."

Mitchell, a four-time premiership teammate of Hodge, remained wary of their wounded opponents.

"They've obviously got some pressure from media so they're going to be up and about," he said.

"We know they're a very talented side with a lot of really dangerous players, so we're certainly not going to underestimate them.

"They've had a really difficult draw as well so we think they're better than they've performed so far.

"At some point they're going to turn the corner and it's our job to make sure that's not this week."

Hawthorn will be without key forward Mitch Lewis for another week after illness set back his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury, while Conor Nash (quad) faces a fitness test.

The Hawks will take a cautious approach with Changkuoth Jiath's hamstring injury by leaving the dashing defender out for another two weeks.

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