Key Hawk, Blue in doubt for Round 1
MERCURIAL Hawk Cyril Rioli will be "touch and go" for a Round 1 return in Hawthorn's clash with Collingwood at the MCG on March 24 but ruckman Jonathon Ceglar has all but been ruled out.
After Carlton's thrilling five-point JLT2 win over the Hawks in Launceston, watched by 5405 fans, Blues ruckman Matthew Kreuzer will also be racing the clock after rolling his ankle in the first half and could not return to the game.
"At this point in time we are pretty confident he should be good to go in Round 1," said Blues assistant-coach Cam Bruce.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said Rioli looked amazing but the club was cautious about rushing their star into the side after his late start to the year.
"He is travelling really well," Clarkson said.
"If you watched him train you'd say he should be playing this weekend.
"But we are just taking it really slow - he's had a late start to the preseason and we want to make sure we do everything we can in terms of training modes to get him right for Round 1.
"His progress over the last two weeks, we've been really pleased with. So that's going to put him right in the frame for a Round 1 return.
"He is going to be touch and go but we'll just have to wait and see."
Ceglar is over his knee injury but in a cruel twist, now has a back injury.
"In terms of his knee he is ready to go," Clarkson said.
"He and Nic Nat had that injury at the same time and they are both tracking about the same time to return.
"Big 'Cegs' has had a back ailment in the last month that has stopped his progress a bit.
"With backs, sometimes they take a while to settle, especially the bigger fellas, longer fellas, so he's not too far away but he's just slowly progressing his training.
"We don't foresee him coming back in the next few weeks."
Hawthorn controlled the game in the first half but the Blues showed the kind of fortitude the club has been waiting for from its young group.
"The belief the boys should get from not playing the best footy but still winning is enormous," Bruce said.
"That's a sign of growth with this group, winning ugly.
"We didn't want to play the way we wanted to in the first half so to change that and come away with the win is very pleasing."