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Rioli decision was easy: Clarkson

Cyril Rioli of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL Round 13 match between the Carlton Blues and the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG, Melbourne on June 13, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Cyril Rioli of the Hawks celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL Round 13 match between the Carlton Blues and the Hawthorn Hawks at the MCG, Melbourne on June 13, 2014. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
PARACHUTING Cyril Rioli into the Grand Final team was a "pretty easy decision" after the star ticked all the boxes in the build-up to Saturday's clash against the Sydney Swans, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says.

Speaking to reporters after the Grand Final parade at a combined press conference with skipper Luke Hodge and the Swans hierarchy, Clarkson said Rioli was never in doubt once he pulled up well from his first game in 12 weeks – last Sunday's VFL Grand Final.

"Despite all the speculation about it, it was a pretty easy decision really," Clarkson said on Friday.

Clarkson admitted the left-footer cut it fine to be available last weekend, but said the Hawk had successfully jumped all the medical and conditioning staff's hurdles in the nick of time.

The Grand Final will be the first senior game for Rioli – who replaced Jonathan Simpkin from the preliminary final side – since he injured his hamstring tendon in round 15.

"We thought we're just better off doing it (playing him) at a Box Hill level (last week) so he could get confidence in the whole build-up and playing footy again," Clarkson said.

"But he's been able to recover from that game really well, train this week and give himself a great chance to contribute tomorrow."

Clarkson refused to confirm whether Rioli would start as the sub against the Swans.
Despite Rioli's long lay-off, Hodge expected the livewire to elicit panic among the Swans defenders.

"Everyone knows Cyril doesn't need to get 20 possessions to have impact on a game – it's his defensive pressure," he said.

"We know when we're training out at Waverley and when you've got the ball in the defensive half and Cyril's in the area, you panic.

"And we know that the exact same thing's going to be the Sydney defensive blokes when they've got the ball."

Rioli was brought into the team along with ruckman Ben McEvoy, who replaced the unlucky Jonathon Ceglar. Ceglar was omitted after playing the past four games.

Clarkson said it was "just a gut feel thing" to give McEvoy the nod.

"That's never easy but I'm not the only coach who's ever had to do that, there's heartache stories every year just about," Clarkson said.

"Not just the two boys that were left out of our side from last week's preliminary final win either in Ceglar and Simpkin.

"They've been beauties for us throughout the course of their season, but Brad Sewell is a very, very decorated servant of our footy club – and a number of players who have contributed enormously throughout the course of the year."

Selection issues aside, the hype surrounding the Grand Final has been dominated by one man – former Hawk Lance Franklin.

The superstar Swan has kicked 5.12 in two clashes against his ex-teammates this season – threatening to break open both contests - and he looms as the Grand Final X-factor.

"We'll put some attention into him because we know that he can tear games apart if he's not curtailed in some sort of manner," Clarkson said.

Franklin has kicked 6.6 in three Grand Finals but appears primed to explode against the Hawks after tuning up with a five-goal bag against North Melbourne last weekend.
His form is a major reason the reigning premiers find themselves in the rare position of being underdogs in Saturday's decider.

If the Hawks can upset the Swans and win their 12th premiership, it will be only the second time in club history the Hawks have claimed back-to-back flags.

"We haven’t really spoken too much about back-to-back," said Clarkson, who will will join club legends John Kennedy Snr and Allan Jeans with three flags as coach if the Hawks salute.

"It was always about just trying to secure a double-chance and get ourselves into the top-four.

"It's only been in more recent times that you perhaps understand how enormous it would be for our footy club and the effort in the current era to win back-to-back premierships is very difficult."