“You start to feel like you lose contact with the group of eight to 10 sides that are sitting above you on the ladder.
“It’s an important game in that respect.”
Having more than once in 2019 spoken about Hawthorn’s middle-of-the-road status, the four-time premiership coach also stressed that there was more parity in the competition than ever before. Thus, there’s a glimmer of light for any club that sneaks into the lower rungs of the top eight come September.
“Who really knows? Halfway through 2017 Richmond were five wins and five losses or thereabouts. Western Bulldogs won it [the 2016 flag] from seventh position. Halfway through that season no one would have thought they were a chance of winning the title.”
Hawthorn will again be without important player Chad Wingard (hamstring) and Clarkson lamented the stop-start nature of the former Port player’s season after he crossed to the Hawks. The 25-year-old has played seven games this season, including returning for the round 10 win over Port Adelaide, before injuring himself in the costly loss to Brisbane a week later.
“We need to get his body right – he’s just had three or four of these tiny little episodes that are causing him to miss weeks here or there,” Clarkson said.
“The concern with that is over time, you just don’t get any continuity with his footy. We need to work that out.”
Clarkson touched on his frustration with injuries and the impact they have on any club’s search for its best form. Hawthorn are yet to win successive matches.
“You can sit there and say injuries aren’t an excuse, but it certainly doesn’t help. It makes it difficult,” he said.
“You can have the old adage ‘replace a player’ like we’ve had for a long time, but there does become a tipping point that makes it difficult.
“Not so much when you miss one or two players, or in our case or even worse still, when it’s Richmond’s case – when it’s five or six key players.”
The Hawks are content with the recent output of 281-gamer Jarryd Roughead since the veteran was dropped to the VFL after the narrow loss to Melbourne in round seven.
“Roughy’s been going OK,” said Clarkson.
“Given the stocks that we’ve had with a bit of injury and what not, he had to play as a second ruck and midfield for us at different stages in last week’s [VFL] game.
“He hasn’t been playing the role at Box Hill necessarily that he was in the first week when he went back.
“The last couple of weeks he’s played a different sort of role.
“He’s acquitted himself really well – like we’d expect from him. He’s really helped the younger players there and really embraced the role that he can play in helping those guys.
“He’s in the twilight of his career and he’s really invested in helping those young guys at the start of their careers.”
Scott Spits is a sports reporter for The Age