Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew is confident his proud midfield group will rebound from last week’s horror show as the Suns look to stay in the hunt for a maiden AFL finals appearance.
With co-captain Touk Miller (hamstring) still sidelined, highly-touted Suns Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson were given a lesson by Carlton’s hungry on-ball division in a 59-point thrashing.
It left Gold Coast fighting to keep their top-eight dream alive with a 6-7 record.
But Dew expects a strong response from his engine room in Sunday’s clash with Hawthorn at Heritage Bank Stadium.
“That group in particular has been the one that has pulled us out of a hole more than a couple of times this year,” Dew said.
“I would expect exactly the same response. That group there are very proud and they’ll get back to work.
“They don’t go out there to play that way and we’ve got to give credit to Carlton – they stepped it up and got the jump on us in the centre bounces.
“I’m pretty keen for our midfielders to go to work again.”
The Suns swung the axe, making four changes – three of them unforced – for their first outing at their regular home venue since round eight.
Alex Davies, Tom Berry and Rory Atkins were all dropped after the Carlton loss and Joel Jeffrey (foot) is out injured.
Lachie Weller has overcome a knee injury to play his first game since round seven while Sam Flanders, Brandon Ellis and Hewago Oea have been recalled.
“We dropped one last week and we get another opportunity to get four points and keep some momentum,” Dew said.
“Our body of work recently has been strong, so bounce-back is important.
“It’s a great chance to be back at home … so we’re expecting to play really well and play our style for as long as possible.”
Dew will do battle with Hawks coach Sam Mitchell – one of his 2008 premiership teammates – for the third time.
The pair have split their previous encounters 1-1.
“He’s got Hawthorn playing the way he wants them to play … you can really see what they’re trying to do,” Dew said.
“They play an aggressive brand of footy, quite attacking, and in the last month they’ve actually built some consistency in that space.
“Even before then you could see some signs in quarters and halves, which you get from a young team.
“But now they’re playing with a bit of freedom and some confidence, so they’re always dangerous.”