The Hawks may be too young to fully appreciate the intense rivalry with round 1 opponents Essendon, but coach Sam Mitchell says he will let them play with as much aggression as they can muster this season.
Mitchell said there was a clear generational divide between the coaching staff and players at the competition’s least experienced club, but he had trust in the playing group to bring a high intensity to each game.
The strongest sides in the AFL played close to the edge and the spot fires seen at Hawthorn pre-season training were part of preparing to bring a similar attitude into the season, Mitchell said.
“They’re not things you try to create … sometimes as young men, someone gets on your nerves and annoys you and steps on your toe and doesn’t say sorry, and you end up in a bit of a scuffle,” he said.
“And I think as a coach you’ve got two choices: you can either tell them ‘hey, calm down’, or just let it go.
“I haven’t really promoted it as much as just let them go about their business.”
Mitchell said teammates from his four-time premiership side at Hawthorn had always been prepared to take it up to their opponents physically.
“I was fortunate enough to play with guys like Lance Franklin, Jordan Lewis and Jarryd Roughead – they loved having a little scuffle right from the very start,” he said.
“In the game now you look at the very best sides and they’ve all got a bit of edginess about them.
“It’s not something we’ve implemented in training, but if that’s something that the players feel like will help them perform, who am I to get in their way?”
Mitchell said references to football history or movies often fell flat with the young Hawks, and he was unsure how much the group would make of the rivalry with the Bombers ahead of Sunday’s clash at the MCG.
“It does remind you that we are getting a bit older, but no the boys are certainly across that, and it’s something that’s really interesting,” he said.
“I’m still undecided on whether or not to make it a bigger deal by bringing up the Hawthorn-Essendon history, or just let it lie and let them research it themselves.”
Hawthorn will take their time with gun forward Mitchell Lewis, with Mitchell confident the Hawks could fill the void in attack in his absence.
“Nothing has changed with (Lewis). I think round 5 might be his earliest possible game, and then anything that’s not perfect, we’ll push him back a little bit further than that,” he said.
“He’s started running a bit quicker now and still not doing any change of direction or that sort of thing.”
Mitchell did not confirm whether SSP recruit Fergus Greene would make his club debut on Sunday against Essendon but said he was among a group who could add “another dimension” to the Hawks.
“I know when training gets really hard, Fergus is pretty regularly saying ‘where would you rather be boys, you could be selling pens’?” Mitchell said.
“He was working for Artline last year, so he always just reminds the boys although he did love that job, what they’re doing now is pretty special.”
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