Hawks prepare to fly despite injury woes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hawks prepare to fly despite injury woes

By Roger Vaughan 17/04/2009 04:39:13 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn are slowly, painfully starting to take more steps forward than they do sideways or backwards in their injury-plagued AFL premiership defence.

In the week that they enjoyed their first win of the regular season and prepare to welcome back several key players, tall defender Trent Croad has started kicking the ball again as he enters his belated "pre-season".

They also scored a big win at the AFL tribunal on Tuesday night when Campbell Brown was found not guilty of a rough conduct charge - he was risking a three-week ban.

Also, Saturday's opponent Port Adelaide will be without captain Domenic Cassisi and top midfielder Peter Burgoyne because of suspension.

"That mix of (Hawthorn) players hasn't played all year and their 1-2 result right now has reflected that," said Port coach Mark Williams.

"They've got their best onballers back and they won by nine goals (without them) last week.

"I can imagine they'd be feeling like they're getting us at the right time without Dom and Peter playing and we'll have to be at our absolute best to get the result."

Still, Hawthorn's injury woes continue, with Stephen Gilham joining 2008 premiership teammates Grant Birchall and Xavier Ellis as the latest casualties.

It means the Hawks defence will be stretched on Saturday when they play Port Adelaide at the MCG.

Midfielders Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell and ruckman Robert Campbell - all members of the 2008 flag-winning team - will play their first games of the season, while fellow ruckman Simon Taylor returns from suspension.

"We thought we were on the verge of seeing a little bit of blue sky at the end of last week, knowing these three or four were probably going to be available this week," said coach Alastair Clarkson.

"But we got another three injuries out of the game.

"We feel those four players, they're all pretty critical to our whole structure through the midfield.

"While that's going to help our midfield a little bit, our defensive end is now a little bit riddled."

The return of Campbell and Taylor eases the strain for Hawthorn at the ruck contests, with Campbell also capable of going into defence.

Campbell has been on the verge of selection for the last month, but troublesome scar tissue in a buttock muscle kept delaying his return.

"He's been close for every one of the last four or five weeks and it was just the scar tissue (that) was his issue in his buttock region," Clarkson said.

"It just made it difficult to settle it - he's a big man, I wouldn't be wanting to trying to settle that buttock either."

Gilham made his comeback from a knee injury in Sunday's win over North Melbourne, but the joint became swollen after the game.

Given Hawthorn are on a six-day break, they did not want to risk further aggravating the problem.

Clarkson is hopeful the setback will be short-term, but the Hawks will know more next week.

"With knees, they're tricky things, you've just got to wait and allow them to settle before you can put full load through them again," Clarkson said.

Clarkson added that Croad had recovered well from surgery to remove a bone spur in his foot and would soon start running.

The Hawks coach said the tall defender remains on target for a mid-season return to the senior team.

"He will more-or-less do a mini pre-season over the course of the next eight to 10 weeks," he said.

Rick Ladson (knee) and Michael Osborne (hamstring) are other premiership players yet to play this season.

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