Will Hawthorn’s Isaac Smith play? It all comes down to Thursday training

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Nanjing Night Net

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has indicated that a final call on whether injured speedster Isaac Smith will play in the qualifying final against West Coast on Friday will be made after training on Thursday afternoon.

Clarkson has been surprised by the rate of progress Smith has made in the five days since the game against Carlton and suggested the outlook for the dual premiership wingman was more positive than it was earlier in the week.

Smith, who flew to Perth with “five or six” teammates on Wednesday night before the main group flew on Thursday, damaged a medial ligament after being tackled by Blues midfielder Jason Tutt.

“We said it was 50-50 and probably needed everything to go right for it to be a selection opportunity for us this week, but he’s progressed really well,” Clarkson said at Melbourne Airport on Thursday morning.

“He’ll do some training while we’re in Perth and we’ll make an assessment over the next 24 hours as to whether he’s right to play.

“All will be determined by how well he can move this afternoon when we have a run around, so if he’s OK then we’ll make a call right there and then or if he’s not.”

Despite the lure of a home preliminary final hanging on the match, Clarkson insisted he would not risk playing Smith if he was deemed unfit.

“We’re going to take our best team in, but we’re not going to take in blokes who aren’t quite right. If he can’t prove his fitness then he doesn’t play, it’s pretty simple really,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson drew confidence from the fact his side beat West Coast at Domain Stadium just five weeks ago in the same kind of wet conditions which are being forecast for Friday monster encounter.

“It’s good to know that you’ve won in the west against this opponent in more recent times, but you don’t just think that it’s all just going to roll out that way this time around,” he said.

“It’s a different game, a couple of different changes to the side.”

One of those changes for West Coast is the inclusion of influential ruckman Nic Naitanui who sat out the round 19 meeting due to the passing of his mother.

Clarkson agreed that stopping the All-Australian nominee would go a long way to ensuring a Hawthorn victory.

“If he has a significant influence on the game, it’s going to make it really difficult for us to win,” Clarkson said.

“He’s quite possibly going to be All-Australian ruckman and has been very, very important to their side.”

West Coast and Hawthorn possess two of the most potent attacks in the competition.

For the Eagles, Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy (75 goals), Mark LeCras (45), Josh Hill (35) and Jamie Cripps (32) have combined for 187 goals.

For the Hawks, Jack Gunston (52), Luke Breust (45), Jarryd Roughead (43) and Cyril Rioli (35) have slotted 175 majors between them.

It’s for that reason that Clarkson believes whichever team wins the midfield battle, and supplies their forward line with more opportunities to score, will probably win the game.

Clarkson dismissed a suggestion his team had to silence the parochial West Coast crowd as quickly as possible.

“It was five goals to two against in the game that we played there five weeks ago,” he said.

“Every game that you play you’d like to get off to a good start, but if you don’t it’s not absolutely catastrophic, you can still find a way to get back into the contest.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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