Luke Hodge approaching best, say Hawks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Luke Hodge approaching best, say Hawks

Guy Hand 14/05/2011 03:51:10 PM Comments (0)

Hawthorn have warned the handbrake is about to be released on captain Luke Hodge's slow start to the AFL season.

Hodge has battled an Achilles problem all year, which has held him back from being able to train fully ahead of games.

But the Hawks' eight-day break going into Sunday's clash with St Kilda at the MCG has allowed Hodge a rare long run into a match this season.

So much has he improved in the lead-up that coach Alastair Clarkson believes Hodge's best form is coming sooner than the club initially thought.

"The way he's responded the past two or three weeks, he's nearly over the hill," Clarkson said on Saturday.

"He's probably been able to train more for this game than what he has been able to do for the four or five games he's played to date.

"He's pain-free when he plays - it just takes a little bit longer to recover from games.

"We're expecting his best form is not going to be too far away."

Hawthorn's successful blooding of youth in their 4-2 season start has led to bloodletting among the Hawks' mid-tier ahead of the St Kilda clash.

Premiership players Xavier Ellis, Rick Ladson and Clinton Young have been axed.

This season's revelation Matt Suckling returns from a week out with a knee injury, while last week's debutants Isaac Smith and Paul Puopulo retain their places after impressive displays in the win over Port Adelaide.

And another first-gamer in small forward Luke Breust has been included this week.

Clarkson said the search for the right balance in the Hawks' line-up had thrown up some pleasant surprises and selection headaches.

Collingwood's successful blueprint of finding the right youth to inject at the right time is at the forefront of the Hawks' selection thinking.

"Young players, you don't have huge expectations they're going to come in and make a significant contribution in their early games," Clarkson said.

"But history's littered with sides that have injected youth and it's been the fillip they've needed to take them to the next level.

"There's no greater example than Collingwood."

St Kilda have axed hot-and-cold utility Raphael Clarke and lose midfielder Leigh Montanga to suspension.

Both teams will compete for the Blue Ribbon Cup in memory of two Victoria Police officers killed in the line of duty in Melbourne in 1998 - Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller.

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