Hawthorn defenders Brian Lake and Ben Stratton are set to return to football this weekend – the only issue is where.
Ahead of Hawthorn’s crunch AFL match with Collingwood on Saturday afternoon, Hawks vice-captain Jordan Lewis said the pair were ready to play.
“Lake and Stratton are both available this week, whether it be Box Hill or AFL, they’ll certainly be playing football somewhere,” he said.
Lake has missed five games with a calf injury while an adductor problem kept Stratton out for the last three.
Interim coach Brendon Bolton has previously said Lake would need time in the reserves before returning to the AFL though the form of Travis Cloke may convince him otherwise.
Cloke was one of Collingwood’s best against the Bulldogs with six goals.
The Hawks have barely been able to field their best 22 all season, which made Cyril Rioli’s report for striking all the more frustrating.
However both Lewis and captain Luke Hodge correctly predicted he would be cleared by the match video review panel.
“When you watch it he actually hit his own team-mate,” Hodge told Melbourne radio station Nova.
“He actually got Paul Puopolo… he’ll be pretty safe there.”
Both Josh Gibson and former captain Sam Mitchell remain sidelined, along with coach Alastair Clarkson.
Lewis said Mitchell’s work on the training track had been encouraging but he remained at least two weeks away.
Clarkson was in the rooms on Friday night but remains on leave recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The Hawks boast an excellent record against the Magpies, with five straight wins over Nathan Buckley’s side, but Lewis said that was not worth thinking about.
“It’s irrelevant, we won’t speak about it at all this week,” he said.
“Past experiences count for nothing.”
The pair will also meet in the last round before the finals, making their head-to-head clashes even more important for both sides.
Collingwood were beaten by the unfancied Western Bulldogs on Sunday, which Lewis said was a sign of the closeness of the league.
“If you just show up to play and you just expect that you might win an easy game, any side will beat you,” he said.
“On games like that you really need to give credit to the sides that win.”