Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is wary of the threat posed by an Essendon side already bearing the unmistakable stamp of Mark Thompson.
Two of the AFL’s fiercest rivals meet at Etihad Stadium on Friday night on the back of big round-one wins.
Hawthorn began the post-Buddy Franklin era with an eight-goal dismissal of Brisbane while Essendon were even more impressive, smashing North Melbourne even more comprehensively than the 39-point margin suggests.
“We’ve got a fair amount of time for the Kangaroos and the way they go about it, but they were made to look inept last week,” said Clarkson.
“The Bombers did some things really well and we’ll obviously be very wary about some of those things.”
North Melbourne struggled to get their hands on the ball against Essendon, losing the overall disposals count 450-291 and also being smashed in contested possessions (154-110), clearances (52-30) and inside 50s (60-40).
Clarkson sensed the hand of two-time Geelong premiership coach Thompson behind much of Essendon’s good work.
“I haven’t seen Essendon play, and I don’t think many have, like they played last week,” said Clarkson.
“Are we going to get the same as that?
“It’s a different coach this time around with Bomber (Thompson) and already we’re seeing some subtle changes to the the way they go about things.
“It’s a little bit of the old Bomber and Geelong in the way they want to set up and play.”
But while acknowledging Essendon posed a different challenge during Thompson’s one-year tenure before he hands the reins back to James Hird, Clarkson also stressed that the reigning premiers had evolved following Franklin’s move to Sydney.
“Buddy is no longer there, so we’re going to structure up differently,” said Clarkson.
“That will take a while for opposition sides to work out.”
Essendon star Brendon Goddard is confident the Bombers finally have some clear air after the board made clear to Hird and his supporters on Wednesday their expectations while he served out the remainder of his 12-month ban.
“We don’t need or want any more distractions, although we’ve dealt with a lot in the past,” said Goddard, a member of Essendon’s leadership group.
“I think the message has been passed on to Hirdy.
“He’s across how the players are feeling and he’s welcomed the feedback.
“He’s ready to move on.”