Dustin Martin in action for Richmond.
Dustin Martin in action for Richmond.

How Clarko plans to bring down Tigers

HAWTHORN master coach Alastair Clarkson has detailed his plan to dismantle Richmond as the clubs prepare to meet in a final for the first time next week.

The four-time premiership coach, who has steered the Hawks to a sixth top-four finish in seven years, said the Tigers were an "intriguing side" who played differently to most on the back of their strong intercept marking in defence.

Clarkson said the Tigers' defenders were key to the side's game plan, rebounding from half-back with speed transitioning into attack with forward handball.

Alex Rance, David Astbury, Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin average 21.3 marks and 31.5 intercept possessions a game between them and are all in Clarkson's sights as he seeks a strategy that can end Richmond's 21-game winning streak at the MCG.

"Part of it is make sure those buggers don't mark it in the back end, but they're the best marking side in the back part of the ground of any side in the competition," Clarkson told Fox Footy's AFL360 on Monday.

"If you can get the ball to ground level and compete, you're going to give yourself some sort of chance, but if they're marking the footy, they're bouncing out of there pretty quickly and playing some really high-octane football that gets it in their forward line pretty quickly, and they're pretty formidable down there as well.

 

Jaeger O’Meara and Dustin Martin have a chat.
Jaeger O’Meara and Dustin Martin have a chat.

 

"Most sides in the competition, when you lose the ball like Richmond do on occasion from the middle of the ground and it goes into their defence, most sides their midfielders push back really, really deeply.

"Richmond don't have to do that because they've got Rance, Vlastuin, Astbury, Grimes behind the ball.

"When we're talking about this forward handball concept, when those defenders get the ball and look up, there's some Richmond midfielders that are still sitting in the midfield."

The Hawks hope James Sicily (wrist) will be given medical clearance to return in the VFL this weekend. James Frawley (back) is set to be available and four-time premiership defender Grant Birchall (knee) has not been ruled out of featuring in September despite not playing at AFL level since Round 15 last year.

 

Alastair Clarkson celebrates the win over Sydney with his players.
Alastair Clarkson celebrates the win over Sydney with his players.

 

"He's had a pretty strong block of training over the last four-six weeks," Clarkson said of Birchall.

"Our biggest dilemma obviously is going to be has he got the match fitness. But we backed (Cyril) Rioli in in 2014. I dare say we might be backing this guy in as well if he gets himself there."

Clarkson agreed there were similarities between his side and the Baby Bombers who achieved premiership success in 1993, saying an injection of youth in the second half of the season had been key to winning six straight games.

"It's more about where we're going to be in the next two or three years than it is right now," he said.

"But while we're here we're going to give it everything we possibly can."

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