Hawthorn wingman Isaac Smith has welcomed the club’s difficult first block of fixtures for the AFL season restart as an ideal chance to set up a finals push.
The Hawks, who finished ninth last year, knocked off 2019 semi-finalists Brisbane in round one and resume the coronavirus-hit campaign against arch rivals Geelong on Friday night.
They will also clash with reigning premiers Richmond, beaten grand finalists GWS, as well as North Melbourne, in a tough first four weeks after the shutdown period.
But Smith says matches against genuine premiership contenders will give the Hawks a perfect platform to climb up the ladder.
“It’s nice to play the stronger sides early on but no one knows where anyone’s at at the moment (because) we’ve only played one game and had 10 or 12 weeks off,” he told reporters on Monday.
“Last year these were the stronger sides and if we come out of it ahead of the ledger then I think we’re in a pretty good spot to take on the season.
“We’ll wait and see what happens, but I know we’re raring to go and we’re looking forward to playing the better sides.”
Hawthorn have tweaked their Waverley Park training ground to match the shape of Geelong’s Kardinia Park in preparation for their first trip to the venue – now known as GMHBA Stadium – since 2006.
Smith has studied some tape of Cats wingman Mitch Duncan making use of the long and skinny playing arena, which is 10m narrower than any other ground in the competition.
Hawks star Smith said the shape of the ground would force him to change some of his attacking and defensive running patterns.
“I grew up playing on thin grounds and you don’t get lost like you’re at the MCG,” Smith said.
“You’re only one kick away from the ball the whole time so I’m looking forward to getting down to Geelong and playing.”
Smith said injured teammate Jaeger O’Meara is still no certainty to play against the Cats after suffering a small facial fracture at training last week.
The Hawks will leave a decision on O’Meara to the last minute.