- from afl.com.au
HAWTHORN'S famed belief took a hit in its early-season struggles, four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson conceded on Friday ahead of the Hawks' clash with St Kilda in Tasmania.
Clarkson's side, which still contains many players from the 2013-15 flag three-peat, registered its first win of the year last Sunday against West Coast at the MCG after four consecutive defeats.
The last two of those losses were by 86 points to both the Gold Coast and Geelong, but a number of senior Hawks returned to form in style in the 50-point demolition of the Eagles.
"(Confidence) comes and goes," Clarkson told reporters.
"We saw that in the first part of the year – you don't lose two games by 86 points unless you're a little bit down in terms of the way you go about it.
"But to a man, we were just more even across the whole team last week, and that makes a huge difference.
"We just didn't have enough of our players playing well enough in the early part of the year, and last week was a welcome relief we got a solid contribution."
Big-name recruit Jaeger O'Meara (knee) joined his teammates on the flight to Launceston after two weeks on the sidelines, but Cyril Rioli (hip) will remain in Melbourne.
Clarkson tipped Rioli, who was unable to train during the week, to miss just one match and be ready for the round seven clash with Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday week.
"Cyril took that speccy (against West Coast) and maybe won Mark of the Year, but misses the next week with a jarred hip, so that's a bit of a shame," Clarkson said.
"He played really well – had his best game for the year last week – so it would have been great if he could have followed up, but sometimes that can't be the case.
"Jaeger's just come back from that bone bruising in his knee and he's fine to play … hopefully he can get his season up and going now."
O'Meara will pair with ex-Sydney Swan and the AFL's leading ball-winner Tom Mitchell in the midfield, with Clarkson hailing the latter's "solid contribution" this year.
The Saints have played some good football in patches, but gave up eight goals to one to Geelong in the final term last weekend to slip to a 2-3 record.
They ran Hawthorn within three points at Launceston in round four last year, going close to snapping the Hawks' incredible 19-match winning streak at the venue.
"We have a good record at the ground, but the Saints have played a bit at that ground, too," Clarkson said.
"Particularly some of their older players, like Nick (Riewoldt) and 'Joey' (Leigh Montagna), back in the day when they were playing some home games at Launceston.
"But irrespective of the venue, we're going to need to play really well. Hopefully if we show anything like we did against West Coast, we'll be hard to beat."