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Two rucks, or not two rucks?

Clarkson before the Eagles clash Alastair Clarkson spoke to the media this morning as the side prepares to take on ladder leaders the Eagles.

TWO RUCKS, or not two rucks? That is the question for Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson as he finalises his side for Sunday's Etihad Stadium clash with West Coast.

The Eagles have barnstormed their way to the top of the ladder with Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett sharing the ruck duties, defying the League-wide trend to play one recognised ruckman and pinch-hit at other times.

For the Hawks in 2018, it has been Ben McEvoy with help from some key forwards and backs. But as they meet on Friday afternoon to finalise their team to take on the Eagles, Jon Ceglar will be front and centre of deliberations.

Read: A closer look at West Coast's line up

The 204cm ruck/forward hasn't played at AFL level since injuring his ACL in round 22, 2016. Just as he was ready to return this year, he injured his back, but following three games back in the VFL, including a 28-disposal, 10 marks, six tackles, 28 hit-outs and one goal effort last weekend, he was named in the extended squad to take on the Eagles.

"He's getting really close," Clarkson said at the Ricoh Centre on Friday morning.

"But it's also about West Coast. We have a lot to discuss, the size of their forward line, the size of their defence, the size of their ruck division, but we also have to make a call about 'Cegs' and whether he's ready. He's missed 18 months of footy and we have a decision around that."

When the Hawks were a genuine top-four premiership team from 2012-16 they generally played two recognised ruckmen – any two of Ceglar, Ben McEvoy, David Hale and Max Bailey.

In 2016, the McEvoy-Ceglar combination worked well. Until Ceglar's injury. Both players were mobile and could get around the ground, and with their ability to take a contested mark, they were dangerous close to goal.

"We'd like to explore it, it's just that we have to make sure our players are fit and we can tweak and adjust our system to allow for it," Clarkson said.

The Hawks are bracing for a tough encounter on Sunday, although they're not too fussed that their home game is at Etihad Stadium rather than the MCG. Clarkson joked that even Collingwood has to play home games there once or twice a year.

"They're playing some good footy, aren't they?" he said of the Eagles.

"It's a big challenge on the back of our performance last week. There's no more daunting challenge than the top team.

"We weren't able to perform well last week. We were pretty scratchy. We hope to bounce well but it will be difficult against a formidable team like West Coast."

The Eagles' rise to the top has come as no surprise to Clarkson.

"Their best seven players are elite, as good as any in the competition," he said.

"As long as their other players then played their role I always thought they were a lot better than the bottom four that many had them predicted to finish."

Former Hawthorn champion Sam Mitchell is now the midfield coach of the Eagles, and Clarkson said there was every chance his work was part of the club's rise to the top of the ladder.

"But many have a role and we're trying to get that system ourselves."

The Hawks have one final session before Sunday's game, and Clarkson said he expected midfielder Jaeger O'Meara to play.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs