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Shayne Hope

Clarkson set for battle with 'faceless' Hawks

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson faces a challenge against his former club Hawthorn. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Alastair Clarkson insists he can't afford to get emotional about facing Hawthorn.

North Melbourne coach Clarkson, who led the Hawks to four flags before stepping down in 2021 during a messy handover to Sam Mitchell, has bigger issues to address.

Near the top of the list is finding the Kangaroos' first victory of the season in a high-stakes battle of the competition's last remaining winless teams at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.

"There's been a lot of water flow under the bridge (since leaving Hawthorn) and I'm well and truly established here," Clarkson told reporters at North's Arden Street headquarters this week

"They've got on with their footy club and what they need to do too.

"So really, as much as it might seem unemotional, it has to be faceless.

"It doesn't matter if it's Hawthorn or Geelong or whatever the opponent is."

Clarkson lost his only previous coaching battle with Mitchell - his first defeat as North coach, in round three last year - and predicted a doomsday narrative for the loser of Sunday's clash.

He maintains the bigger picture is more important than the result, but acknowledges a win could have a significant impact on a developing player group.

"Both clubs right at the minute are in the really difficult phase of having one eye on the future and one eye on the now," Clarkson said.

"The one eye on the now is all about trying to win games of footy and what that does to your environment, but the other eye is where we're going to be in our future.

"While the football world perhaps wants to make a big thing of the result of this week's game, for both clubs the result is only just a small thing.

"It's about where we want to be in two or three years."

Sam Mitchell
Sam Mitchell is looking for the Hawks' first win of the season and his second against Clarkson. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Third-year Hawks coach Mitchell made no secrets of taking an old-school physical approach on the training track this week, attempting to force a response out of his players after a 53-point hiding from Gold Coast in round five.

Noth Melbourne were on the receiving end of a similar result - smashed by 75 points away to Geelong - but Clarkson didn't take the stick to his side in the aftermath.

Instead, he opted for a more conventional approach to the Kangaroos' preparation, but predicted a fiery contest with Hawthorn nonetheless.

"Both sides have got their backs against the wall and come off disappointing losses ... and both sides will be keen to make amends for disappointing performances," Clarkson said.

"I'd expect it's going to be a tough, fierce contest and we're just as keen to make amends for last week as what I'm sure Hawthorn is."

North have added incentive to celebrate Nick Larkey's 100th game with a win - something the spearhead has only experienced 20 times in his previous 99 outings.

In a surprise move, the Kangaroos have rested young gun George Wardlaw after only five rounds and recalled fellow former high-end draft pick Will Phillips for his first senior game of the season.

Cameron Zurhaar is back from a calf injury to bolster North's forward line, while Hugh Greenwood has been dropped.

Hawthorn have recalled Harry Morrison, Jai Serong and veteran forward Jack Gunston in place of Josh Ward, Max Ramsden and Sam Butler. 

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