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Murphy AFL grand final dreams in balance
Tom Murphy handballs during the narrow win over Adelaide. Pic: Getty Images

The elephant in the room could trample Tom Murphy's AFL grand final dreams.

The 26-year-old defender was an emergency for Hawthorn's 2008 premiership and Murphy is well aware he could also miss out again this Saturday.

Hawthorn dropped Murphy for last Saturday's preliminary final against Adelaide, but was recalled when captain Luke Hodge was a late withdrawal with a bout of gastro.

Given Hodge will return for Saturday's grand final against Sydney, Murphy knows his spot is again in jeopardy.

"It's the elephant in the room, in a way, but the thing is, there's not much I can control now," Murphy said on Sunday.

"It's up to the coaches to pick the team (and) there are probably 27 or 28 blokes who can legitimately make a claim to play.

"And there'll be 22 that play in the end.

"I played last night, all the boys had a crack, and eventually there'll be 22 picked to play this week. It is what it is, I suppose."

Murphy is used to that sort of pressure - he has only played six senior games this season and regularly been named as an emergency.

The 95-game defender will approach the grand final the same as every other week.

He will assume he is playing until told otherwise.

"This week I will just prepare as if I'm playing, like I did yesterday morning," he said.

"I will be ready to go, and if you're playing you're playing, and if you're not, you're a well-prepared spectator.

"That's just how it goes. It's the same every year for both teams in the grand final."

Murphy did not know he was in the team until 10am on Saturday morning.

"I got a text ... from 'Clarko' (coach Alastair Clarkson) saying I was playing, I was sitting down having breakfast," he said.

"And then I had a couple of hours to get ready and I played.

"It was a bloody exciting game and I'm just glad that we won in the end.

"It was a bit of a surreal day, really."

Murphy was also dropped for the 2008 preliminary final and was an emergency a week later as the Hawks upset Geelong for their most recent flag.