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Pre-season guide: Hawthorn

Fitness coach Andrew Russell said Bradley Hill has been one of the stand-out performers this pre-season - ${keywords}
Fitness coach Andrew Russell said Bradley Hill has been one of the stand-out performers this pre-season

Having played all the way through to the Grand Final, the Hawks had only a short pre-Christmas training block of four weeks after returning from annual leave. That included a week-long training camp on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, which head fitness coach Andrew Russell said would provide an ideal launching pad for the rest of pre-season. "We had a really high quality training camp," he said. "It was the second year in a row we went up there. It's a good training environment, a good recovery environment, and we trained hard. We believe in the benefits of training in the heat, and also the environment lends itself to high quality training and good quality downtime, where the players get to spend a lot of time together and recover really well in between sessions."

Players broke for Christmas at the end of camp on December 20, with the majority returning on January 3. Seven-year-plus players will be given an extra four days' leave.

Draftee watch:
Long-term key position prospects Tim O'Brien and Kaiden Brand have both settled in well, but are on light programs as the club learns about the limits of their bodies. Irish rookie Ciaran Kilkenny has impressed with his strong work ethic and aerobic capacity. He is also working hard on his kicking, having crossed from the Gaelic round ball code.  "He's got a fanatical approach to improving his skills," Russell said. "He's been working every day on his kicking, so he's going to give it every chance to be successful."

Russell nominated youngsters Bradley Hill and Mitch Hallahan as eye-catching performers on the track so far. "They have both improved their strength and fitness, but it's more the footy side – their footy conditioning and decision-making – is going to another level," he said. Recruits Brian Lake and Jonathan Simpkin have also made excellent early impressions.

Medical room:
Russell said Luke Hodge was on schedule in his recovery from a post-season posterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, having started low-level running during training camp. Last season's anterior cruciate ligament victims Brendan Whitecross and Michael Osborne are also making promising progress, Russell said. Osborne is in a full running program, along with some ball work, and Whitecross started running in Queensland. Jordan Lewis, who had a wrist operation in the off-season, is in full training aside from contact work. Veteran Shaun Burgoyne is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in the Grand Final, but is back running.

What they say:
"I don't see it (starting pre-season later than most other clubs) as a disadvantage at all. You need three months of good preparation to be ready for an AFL season. So if your group's healthy, it's no issue at all. It's just if you come out of a finals series very unhealthy, or you hit a number of roadblocks early in your preparation, then there's no buffer. We're in a pretty healthy state, and we haven't had any significant interruptions in our first four weeks." – Head fitness coach Andrew Russell.

NAB Cup schedule:

Round one: v Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast, Metricon Stadium, Saturday, February 23
Round two: v Western Bulldogs, Etihad Stadium, Friday, March 1
Round three: v Richmond, Aurora Stadium, Saturday, March 9