HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson says his team will continue to grow in confidence following their six-point victory over rivals Sydney last Friday night at the MCG.
The Hawks led for the majority of the night before being challenged in the second half, eventually wrestling back the lead for a tight victory.
It was another exciting instalment between the Hawks and Swans, who contested the 2012 and 2014 grand finals.
“It was a tough grind,” Clarkson said.
“We’ve had some great battles with Sydney.”
“Strangely enough the last few times we have been able to beat them up there and they’ve knocked us off down here.”
“It was really pleasing to get a win at the MCG.”
Clarkson was full of praise for the young players in his side, who held sway against a Sydney team that hadn’t lost since their last clash with the Hawks in Round 10.
“To win against the form side of the competition, who have won 10 of their last 11 is really pleasing,” he said.
“It took character, we’ve got a pretty young group.”
“This is a group getting belief in itself and where it takes us I don’t know.”
“Belief can take you a long way when you’ve got that.”
It was another battle that made Clarkson reflect on Hawthorn’s impressive second half of the year, following many assumptions that the Hawks would struggle after their long period of sustained success.
“At different stages, similar question marks were placed on Sydney and Geelong over the last five to eight years,” he said.
“As an opposition coach you think beauty, ‘Goodesy’ has finally retired, Sydney might drop away now.”
“Then the Swans have this young fella Newman who comes from nowhere.”
“How many times have Sydney done that? Pulled a bloke from nowhere who starts playing tremendous football.”
“When you lose a soldier through retirement or injury you just replace them with another one.”
“That’s culture, that’s belief, that’s opportunity.”
Clarkson believes that a strong culture is what sets up premiership success for an AFL club.
“(Sydney) have just got such a fabulous culture, Geelong also has a fabulous culture and Hawthorn has a really, really strong culture.”
“Those three clubs in particular have stayed at the top and defied the logic of what the competition is about in terms of equalisation and dropping down the ladder.”
“It’s for a key reason and that’s because their culture is so strong.”