The Hawks remain hopeful that Luke Hodge will be available for round one of the home and away season
HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson says Luke Hodge remains on target to be playing by round one, although it may not be at AFL level.
Hodge is on the comeback from post-season knee surgery, and trained with his Hawks teammates at Waverley on Thursday morning.
Clarkson said a report his captain had suffered a recent setback was not true.
"We're anticipating 'Hodgey' is going to be playing footy at round one; it's just what footy that is," Clarkson said before training.
"We've got to make a judgement at that point in time.
"He's training today, and we've still got four weeks until we play, so my experience of footy is that four weeks is a good amount of time, from once you start full training, to get yourself ready to play footy.
"We've just got to make a judgement on when he starts playing matches and whether he's conditioned well enough to play in round one.
"But he's the captain of our club and it's going to be pretty tempting to select him, I'd imagine."
The Hawks face a challenge in the remaining weeks of the NAB Cup as they seek to introduce a number of players – including Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne, Xavier Ellis and Liam Shiels – back into competitive football.
The AFL's trial of an interchange cap would make that challenge more acute, Clarkson said, although he praised the League for listening to feedback and allowing an extra two substitutes during the trial.
The 2008 premiership coach said the club would also use VFL affiliate Box Hill to build certain players' minutes.
Clarkson said Shiels had experienced "a delayed start to his campaign" and Ellis "a little bit of calf tightness", but both were now ready to play.
And he took a shot at the tri-series lightning format used for round one of the NAB Cup.
"NAB Cup round one is a little bit Mickey Mouse; it's a little bit of a television thing now," Clarkson said.
"It's a nightmare for coaches and players to manage that each year.
"When you've had players conditioned for four months and they're playing their first game; it's just too higgledy piggledy for mine.
"I'd much rather it was more stable and players know where they're playing and what game time, and not have to worry about using alternative rooms and alternative boxes, and doing media at all different stages throughout the course of the game.
"We don't worry about it too much, but in my view, we've got 18 sides, and it would be better if nine sides just play another side that week." Luke Hodge is a midfielder in AFL Fantasy. He averaged 77 points in 2012. Register your team at our AFL Fantasy hub.