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Stop Franklin is Pies' game

It's a Hawk who will need no introduction occupying Magpie minds in the lead-up to Sunday's clash at the MCG.

It's a Hawk who will need no introduction occupying Magpie minds in the lead-up to Sunday's clash at the MCG.

HAWTHORN will field a team different by half to that which last played Collingwood in the final home-and-away game last year. But it's a Hawk who will need no introduction occupying Magpie minds in the lead-up to Sunday's clash at the MCG.

While the Hawks are losing senior players hand over fist to injury and suspension, there's a huge inclusion of Lance Franklin, and the Pies know from bitter experience how critical he will be to the battle.

Franklin, who returns from a one-game suspension, has regularly had Collingwood for breakfast in his 131-game career. He has booted 33 goals in seven games against the Magpies, at an average of 4.7, and only his returns against Essendon are greater.

But his recent record against Collingwood is even more daunting. In the past four clashes, he has one eight-goal haul, two bags of six, and a five.

Not surprisingly, he more than any other Hawk will be the object of some concerted defensive planning this week. And Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell yesterday conceded the Magpies would have their hands full.

''He's just a freak, I think,'' he swooned. ''In my eyes, he's the most valuable player going around because he's just so hard to stop in the air, on the ground or on the lead.

''We've got a couple of key backs who are in excellent form themselves, 'Tazza' [Chris Tarrant] and Ben Reid, and I'm sure at different times [they] will both be on him. They'll be looking forward to the challenge of taking on one of the best players going around.''

Hawthorn has beaten Collingwood five meetings out of the past six, with the one exception the round-four clash last season when Franklin was out suspended.

Maxwell said the best weapon Collingwood had at its disposal against the superstar was simply to restrict the supply of ball to Franklin out of the middle.

''Buddy up the ground is easier to manage because he's not kicking goals from 60 [metres] or snapping them around the corner. I haven't seen a player who can kick goals facing sideways to goals from 50 or 60 metres like he can.

''You can get a spoil in, but then he follows it up better than anyone as well, so the further we can push him up the ground, the less damage he can do on the scoreboard.''

And with so many of its leading players missing, Franklin's presence for Hawthorn looms larger than ever.

While the previously unsung band of younger players continue to carry all before them for the Hawks, the drain on the senior playing stocks is reaching crisis proportions.

Jordan Lewis is suspended, and Cyril Rioli and Brad Sewell are now also on the casualty list, which has robbed the club of an entire spine, No. 1 ruckman and at least four midfield runners.

Hawthorn is taking a cautious approach with Rioli after a second hamstring strain this season and will delay his return until after the club's round 17 bye.

''It's a hamstring on the minor side, or more likely he's stirred up some scar tissue from a previous injury,'' Hawthorn football manager Mark Evans told the club's website yesterday.

''Usually these things are quite minor and he'll get up to reasonable speed very quickly, [but] we're likely to take that little bit longer with it so that we don't have a third event during the year.''

Key defender Ryan Schoenmakers is also likely to miss another two to three games with a foot injury, although defender Tom Murphy is likely to return this week, and Clinton Young and Rick Ladson are also probable returns.

For Collingwood, ruckman Darren Jolly and veteran Ben Johnson are likely inclusions. But Maxwell admits the Magpies will have to do plenty of homework to get up to speed on a huge group of Hawthorn players he and his teammates are yet to encounter.

''There's so many good players coming through and also so many young guys that I guess are a bit of the unknown that we haven't seen a lot of, who have just been excellent all year, guys like [Matt] Suckling, [Shane] Savage, [Liam] Shiels. So we'll have to make sure we have a good look at them and actually get to see all their strengths and weaknesses.''

Not that Collingwood needs to study the history and the tapes too long to work out Hawthorn's biggest strength. He's big, wears No. 23, and all too often he's been the Magpies' nemesis.


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