Clarkson says lowly Blues on track in AFL

Roger Vaughan
Brownlow Medal favourite Tom Mitchell has lead Hawthorn to a 72-point demolition of lowly Carlton

Alastair Clarkson has gone in to bat for his long-time friend Brendon Bolton, saying lowly Carlton must hold their nerve in the AFL.

Clarkson's Hawthorn held the Blues scoreless in the first quarter and kicked clear again in the last term for a 72-point walloping on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

Hawthorn kicked the last four goals in the 18.16 (124) to 7.10 (52) romp and that meant they returned to the top eight, rising above Geelong on the ladder on percentage.

Bolton worked under Clarkson as an assistant at Hawthorn before taking over as senior coach at Carlton and he is under pressure as the Blues head to their second wooden spoon in four years.

While the Hawks were undermanned, losing star onballer Jaeger O'Meara to a pre-game hip injury, Carlton's injury woes are worse and they deepened further on Sunday.

After losing Dale Thomas (knee) as a late withdrawal, they were two men down for the second half.

Bolton is nervous about the knee injury to Liam Jones and fears Zac Fisher might have a leg fracture.

But Clarkson says the Blues must hold their nerve.

He compared Carlton's plight to his brutal first season in charge at Hawthorn in 2005.

Three years later, they won the premiership.

Clarkson and Bolton caught up on Friday night and the four-time Hawthorn premiership coach said the Blues will recover.

"They're on the right track as a footy club," Clarkson said.

"It's just really, really hard yards.

"It's easy to dig the boots in - I can recall 2005 as a very, very similar position.

"What you need to be is really strong internally, in the terms of the direction they're going."

After only kicking one goal in the first half, Carlton battled back to win the third term before Hawthorn kicked clear again.

It looked similar to their awful round-13 disaster against Fremantle, but Bolton said Carlton worked hard enough in the first quarter.

He bemoaned their lack of composure early and said having two men injured eventually cost them.

Bolton also noted they have had 17 players go through their injury-ravaged back line.

Told of Clarkson's public support, Bolton said: "Clarko's lived it ... he's seen it all."

There were some wins - Ed Curnow shut down Isaac Smith on a wing and Jacob Weitering was strong against Jarryd Roughead.

Hawks onballer Tom Mitchell racked up 46 possessions, surely earning three more Brownlow Medal votes, while Luke Breust kicked five goals.

Hawks defender Daniel Howe faces suspension for his high hit on Patrick Cripps in the opening minute.

Carlton's Cameron Polson provided the game highlight when his speculative snap spectacularly bounced at a right angle in the third quarter and went through for a goal.