AFL: Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says heavy training necessary

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell has prioritised a heavy week of training over the “physical freshness” of his players as he prepares for a high-stakes showdown against his former mentor Alastair Clarkson.

Mitchell, who said the Hawks would “look under every rock” to find answers for their dismal 0-5 start to the season following a heavy loss to Gold Coast, conceded there was a chance his side had “overtrained” leading into Sunday’s clash against fellow cellar dwellers North Melbourne.

The coach said he had no reason to question the Hawks’ effort despite their inconsistency on the field, but thought increasing the amount of contested play at training would be important to turn around their fortunes.

“I think we do some physical training every week, and there’s been a little bit of extra competitiveness among that, we’ve had two six-day breaks in a row, so there’s potential that we might have overtrained in that time,” Mitchell told reporters on Friday.

“But we certainly know that going into this game confident in the work you’ve done was something that we prioritised over the physical freshness of the group.

“(The Suns loss) wasn’t one that we swept away and said, ‘that’s just not us, let’s put it away’ … how do we make sure that type of performance doesn’t happen again?”

Mitchell was coy on how much his experience under Clarkson would help the Hawks plan for Sunday, but said he was “looking forward” to the contest between two sides desperate to register their first win of the season.

“When it’s two teams that are both 0-5, there’s a level of expectation around ‘this is going to be a good game’, and I really look forward to seeing our players respond in a way because they weren’t too pleased with the way they performed last week,” Mitchell said.

“I think every week you look at the opposition team, you look at the opposition coach, what they like to do, how they like the game played, and this week’s no different.

“I’m sure (Clarkson) is looking at our stuff, looking at my theories, and I look at his – it’s the same as every week.”

Mitchell confirmed veteran forward Jack Gunston would return to face the Suns, saying he would provide an important “wise head” after spending time in several positions including defence and on a wing for Box Hill.

“I’m really pleased with Jack … off the field he’s been fantastic, regardless of how he’s going on the field, I think his influence on the group has been fantastic,” Mitchell said.

“I think his body is going well, and he’ll play this week, we’re looking forward to having him just set us up with a little bit more leadership.

“We just lacked a couple of wise heads last week to handle the pressure that (the Suns) brought and the consistency of it, so I think having an extra wise head out on the field will be helpful this week.

“He’ll start in front of the ball, and we know that as a rotation he can play just about anywhere on the field.”