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23rd of October 2018

Sport



Oliver hoping to leave Hawks in a twist

"I have done that for the last few years now - it's easier than running 15 or 16km a game - just put your head over the ball. It's easier for me," he said.

"You get used to it, a bit sore, but you get over it. Everyone cops knocks and things like that. I am not too flash after a game but it's all worth it, when you win."

Oliver has averaged 30 possessions and seven tackles per game this year, revealing that his focus intensified after putting on weight late in his rookie season of 2016. He has since been a diligent figure in terms of fitness and diet, helping him become one of the league's elite young stars.

His willingness to accept the on-field pain has helped the Demons become the league's No.1 contested side. However, his ability to get first touch will be tested by the Hawks, with tagger Daniel Howe expected to get the job on him.

"It should be a really good battle. They also have [Jaeger] O'Meara, [Liam] Shiels, [Isaac] Smith on a wing and [Ben] McEvoy in the ruck," Oliver said.

"Obviously, last time we played them, we lost by 60 or 70 points. That was a while ago. We have a had a few players come in, a few players go out, and hopefully we have a team that is successful."

The Hawks stormed to a 67-point win when the teams met in round four but much has changed since. This is a Demons unit boasting momentum and belief. They also showed poise against Geelong last week, despite having only four players with finals experience.

Oliver said former Hawk Jordan Lewis had been central to ensuring the players retained their composure, particularly in how they prepared for the match.

"He said just treat it like a normal game. It helped to settle the nerves a fair bit, we didn't really worry about it (the match) too much. We just have to do what we normally do before a game and just stick to it," he said.

That helped Oliver to 29 touches and five clearances against the Cats, as the Demons held their nerve despite kicking 1.10 across the second and third terms. When the Cats challenged, the Demons were ready to respond, something they plan on doing against the Hawks.

"We couldn't really break away from them - they had played a few finals and knew what to do. But we stuck at it," he said.

Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.

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