Clifton’s return boosts Greens

SAM Clifton has played one game in three months, but Hamilton coach Scott Coleman has put the Hawks on red alert today for Merewether Carlton’s version of Ben Barba.

Hamilton play Merewether in a rematch of last year’s decider at Townson Oval, and both teams will wear red socks to raise awareness for the SIDS foundation.

Clifton watched the Greens’ 20-16 triumph in the 2011 decider – completing a history-making undefeated season – after breaking his collarbone on the eve of the finals.

He made it back for the start of this campaign only to tear a pectoral muscle in round two.

After 12 weeks on the sideline, the livewire fullback marked his return with a brace in the Greens’ 68-7 rout over University last round.

‘‘He is to Merewether what Ben Barba is to the [Canterbury] Bulldogs,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘He is lightning quick, has great footwork and when he sees a hole he goes for it.

‘‘We have spoken about him all week. Our kick-chase has to be good. We want to use it [kick-chase] as another attacking weapon so to speak. You can get field position and apply pressure with a good chase.

‘‘That is not the only area we have to be switched on. Clifton can be dangerous from anywhere.’’

Apart from Clifton, Mark Wade, Adam Nolan, Sam Bright and Sean Rudder were missing from a Greens outfit which was overpowered 40-23 by Hamilton at Passmore Oval in week six.

‘‘They have seven or eight different guys in compared to last time,’’ Coleman said.

After spending eight months at the Newcastle Knights, Wade returned to Townson Oval in week five but has taken time to get back into the swing of things.

A runaway winner of the Anderson Medal last year, he was hindered early by an ankle injury. But the man mountain is confident he and the Greens are not far off reaching peak form.

‘‘I lost a lot of fitness when I hurt my ankle,’’ the giant second-rower said. ‘‘There was a long period when I couldn’t train and couldn’t run. I’m getting that back.

‘‘I also needed to find my feet in new-look team. The boys are starting to gel and you can sense that we are building towards the semis.’’

Wade was destructive on the edges last season but has adjusted his game to play closer.

‘‘The plan is still to look for mismatches,’’ Wade said. ‘‘But at times things need to be done in close. You can’t get away from that.’’

Wade said Clifton was the ‘‘X-factor’’ the Greens needed.

‘‘He is something that a lot of teams don’t have and we were lacking a little in, a player who is able to score from 60 or 70metres,’’ Wade said.

Hamilton moved eight points clear at the top of the table after they disposed of second-placed Southern Beaches 46-14 last round.

‘‘The game was a lot closer than the scoreline reflected,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘It took a bit out of us mentally and physically. There is a finals buzz about tomorrow but we have a fair few guys with niggling injuries.’’

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