There will be plenty of rain on Friday night at a brutally cold MCG, but no Lance Franklin to face old AFL side Hawthorn.
The superstar forward, having won two premierships with the Hawks before heading north to Sydney, has been ruled out of the crunch clash.
Franklin, 31, has been spared the winter blast by coach John Longmore – but not because the conditions won’t suit his ongoing foot issue.
“He’s pretty hard, he can play with injuries but we didn’t want to push it too much and put him at risk so we decided to can this week,” Longmire said after touching down in Melbourne without his spearhead.
“If he was fine last night and pulled up well today, he was always going to play regardless of the conditions.
“Unfortunately, he just couldn’t get through what was required.”
Franklin has missed three rounds due to a foot problem which has been attributed to the hard surface at Optus Stadium in Perth.
Speaking earlier on Thursday, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said history told him Friday night’s match would be a tight tussle – irrespective of Franklin’s unavailability.
Excluding an 89-point blowout at Homebush, the average margin between the two sides since their 2014 grand final has been seven points.
“We prepare a side for when he’s in it and when he’s out of it,” Clarkson said.
“Like (matches against Geelong), so many of the games are really hard-fought encounters and pretty evenly spread in terms of win and loss and never much more than two or three goals separating the sides.”
Single-digit temperatures and forecasts of heavy rain are likely to make the round-eight opener the first true wet-weather winter classic of the season.
The Hawks are purring at 5-2, while the Swans have defied ordinary home form to be 4-3.
There’s one form line within that record that concerns Clarkson the most: Sydney’s record away from home.
“They’re travelling pretty well interstate at three and zip. We don’t want to make that four,” he said.
“We’re hoping, despite the forecast of rain, we’re hoping our supporters will rug up like they do in England and still get to the game and bring their colours.”
Hawthorn can name an unchanged side from their last-out dismissal of Essendon, or return late withdrawals Will Langford and Ricky Henderson to their team.
Clarkson suggested Langford, if his injured back held up, might be seen in the VFL while Henderson had overcome gastro and should be named.
“We got him on the Vegemite and toast on Sunday and Monday and he’s been able to get some decent grub into him over the last couple of days and he’s good as gold,” he said.