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Bruised Hawks can repeat history, says McEvoy

Football

A bruising loss to Richmond confirmed plenty of fears about Hawthorn but ruckman Ben McEvoy insists the Hawks have what it takes to avoid a straight-sets AFL finals exit.

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Last night’s 31-point qualifying-final defeat leaves the Hawks facing the prospect of going winless in September for the second time in three years.

Alastair Clarkson’s men will play a sudden-death semi-final against the winners of Friday’s Melbourne-Geelong elimination final and are likely to be without star defender Ben Stratton, who will have scans on an injured hamstring.

Clarkson had downplayed his team’s form in the lead-up to the finals despite the Hawks storming to a top-four finish on a six-game winning streak.

The Hawks were far from embarrassed last night but their inability to match the reigning premiers was a reminder that plenty has changed since the glory years of 2013-15.

Despite winning more of the ball, the Hawks had 30 fewer inside-50s than a Richmond side which adapted far better to the greasy conditions.

McEvoy conceded the Hawks had invited Richmond’s fanatical pressure with poor decision-making and the Tigers had been more willing to play “ugly footy”.

But he was confident September would not be a waste, invoking the Hawks’ triumph of 2015 when they lost their qualifying final to West Coast but went on to win their next two games and defeat the Eagles in the grand final.

“It was the first final for a lot of the guys tonight but there’s also a lot of us who have been here before,” McEvoy said.

“We were in this exact position in 2015 so we’ve got full confidence we can turn this around.

“They were the better team tonight and they were too good for us but we certainly believe that our best is still good enough to beat anyone.”

The Hawks bowed out of the 2016 finals in straight sets after finishing third, while they failed to make the top eight last season.

While the likes of Shaun Burgoyne, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston were all down on impact against the Tigers, Brownlow Medal favourite Tom Mitchell was typically prolific and smooth-moving midfielder Jaeger O’Meara shone in his finals debut.

“He’s played some really strong footy all year,” McEvoy said of O’Meara.

“He’s probably been underrated for his consistency.

“Certainly he was pretty good tonight but across the board we just didn’t do enough.”

– AAP

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