Sport AFL Coach Clarkson backs injury-hit Hawks

Coach Clarkson backs injury-hit Hawks

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Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is adamant the AFL premiers can cope with a mounting injury toll.

The Hawks went into Friday’s game against Sydney without 2013 premiership players Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Brian Lake, Brad Sewell and Liam Shiels.

Cyril Rioli limped from ANZ Stadium with a hamstring problem just after halftime against the Swans, though Clarkson wasn’t sure how severe it was.

Another potential worry for Clarkson concerns forward Jarryd Roughead, who could face a nervous wait over a bump to former Hawk Ben McGlynn, which appeared to catch the Swan a high.

The Hawks have a bye before playing away to Port Adelaide, who would dislodge them from top spot with a home win over Fremantle on Saturday.

Hawthorn rebounded from a tardy start against Sydney to dominate the second and third quarters, but lost by 19 points after the Swans kicked six goals to two in the final term.

Clarkson said Hawthorn’s depth had been challenged by injuries all year and younger players had stepped up and done well.

“It didn’t look no good tonight in terms of our depth, but we’ve been pretty pleased with the guys,” Clarkson said.

He said Hodge could have played against the Swans but was due a spell.

“He just didn’t recover out of the St Kilda game as well as what we would have liked and we decided to not take the risk with him,” Clarkson said.

“Because we’ve had situations where in past years if he’s been a little bit sore like that sometimes, it’s ended up in being a soft tissue injury.”

Josh Gibson suffered a corked shoulder in the third quarter, though he played on in the fourth and Clarkson said he would be OK.

He refused to use the injuries to influential players as an excuse for just their second loss in eight games.

Former Hawks champion Lance Franklin kicked 2.7 for Sydney in his first game against the club, but Clarkson said he had played well and given his new employer a good target.

“We were really fortunate he didn’t have his kicking shoes on, because he could have quite easily kicked five or six,” Clarkson said.