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Hawks planning 'team approach' to shut down Sloane

Football

Star Adelaide midfielder Rory Sloane is being backed by his coach to shrug off Hawthorn’s taggers as the Crows hope to kick off the second half of the season with a bang.

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Sloane started the season in stunning form, bolting into Brownlow medal favouritism.

But rival clubs have applied hard tags to the damaging onballer, limiting the star Crow in the past five games.

Sloane can expect similar tactics from Hawthorn when the 17th-placed Hawks meet the ladder-leaders at Adelaide Oval.

“He’s handling it well. He’s a professional and he’s a great player,” Adelaide coach Don Pyke said of his vice-captain.

“There’s some options for Rory there but I think that he will work his way though it – and I will back him in to do that.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said he would be asking for a team approach to shutting down the Adelaide playmaker.

“We quite often take the approach that it’s about team defence and your whole team being able to look after players like that,” Clarkson said.

“That will probably be the approach again but needless to say he’s a pretty special player for them.

“Particularly in the 18 months since Paddy (Dangerfield) has gone to Geelong, Rory has really stepped up with both a leadership role as well as an on-field role in terms of his importance.

“We need to be mindful he doesn’t have a big influence on the game but we’re hoping we won’t have to use just one bloke to nullify for the whole game.”

The Crows (nine wins, three losses) enter the fixture as hot favourites to down the struggling Hawks.

But Pyke was expecting the unexpected from Clarkson after both teams reset during last weekend’s bye.

“We may expect they do something slightly different coming off their first 12 games review, and we have obviously got to prepare for that,” Pyke said, citing the threats posed by Luke Hodge, Grant Birchall and Luke Breust.

“They are very capable. The comp is so even, they are 4-8 and sitting in 17th but they are really two games out of the eight.”

Adelaide are accelerating contract talks with prized youngsters Jake Lever and Mitch McGovern in light of the AFL’s new pay deal.

Victorian Lever and West Australian McGovern are targets of home-city bids but Pyke is confident both will stay in Adelaide.

“Both those guys, as I have said previously, indicated a really strong desire to stay, so we will keep working with them to try and finalise something,” he said yesterday.

Pyke said Tuesday’s pay deal “clears the way” for fresh talks with the pair.

“The uncertainty has been removed,” he said.

“The result of the CBA (collection bargaining agreement) … both parties seem fairly happy with the outcome – that is a positive for the players, a positive for the league.

“And from our viewpoint, from a list-management viewpoint, it just gives us that certainty. We know now what we’re dealing with.”

McGovern is in the sights of West Coast, where his brother Jeremy plays.

The 22-year-old forward tore a hamstring tendon in round three and had only just returned to state league ranks.

McGovern takes a strong mark. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

Lever’s stocks have risen markedly with the 21-year-old from the Calder Cannons enjoying a breakout season in Adelaide’s defence.

His form has been a key part in Adelaide’s platform which, Pyke says, will “possibly” become a failure without a top-four finish.

Pyke said coaching staff used their bye last weekend to reflect on the season so far.

“It was a reflection on some of the positive things that we have done really well and some of the growth in some areas … credit to the players and the work they have done,” Pyke said.

But the Crows, who beat Hawthorn in round two at the MCG, were focused on the future, he said.

“We also sit with one eye on the future,” Pyke said.

“Understanding that we’re in a position now to continue to win games of footy and give ourselves the best chance to participate in finals.

“We want to keep building so, therefore, we look back and say ‘yep, done some good work’. But we’re not satisfied.

“If we stand still, people go past us in a heartbeat. And we can’t afford to stand still.”

The Hawks, in 17th spot with just four wins, were held to their lowest halftime score – 0.1 – against Port Adelaide three weeks ago at Adelaide Oval.

And on return to the venue, Clarkson said the lessons learnt were clear.

“(Adelaide Oval) has become a bit of a fortress of both of the teams in Adelaide,” he said.

“You need to try and be at least even with them at quarter-time if you give yourself a chance.”

Clarkson refused to write off boom recruit Jaeger O’Meara’s year as a bust, backing the injured midfielder to return by season’s end.

O’Meara is suffering bone stress in a long-troublesome knee but Clarkson says he won’t be put in cotton wool for next season.

Clarkson says Hawks medicos are relieved O’Meara’s injury isn’t tendon-related.

“It’s a little bit of a hiccup for us because he was really doing a mini pre-season to try and get back,” he said.

“And in the process of putting some load through, that knee got a bit of bone stress.”

Clarkson said there was no temptation to sideline O’Meara with 2018 in mind, ruling out any link with a knee tendon injury two years ago while at Gold Coast.

“We think it’s good for him and us he gets up to play (this season),” Clarkson said.

“Even if it’s two or three games and, even if that happens to be at Box Hill rather than at senior footy, we think it’s important for him and his rehab.

“He has played very little footy for the best part of two-and-a-half years now.

“So it’s good for him and good for us if we get him playing, so we will be trying to do that and we won’t be putting him in cotton wool.”

-AAP

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