Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge won't be rushed back into the side
PATIENCE will be the key when it comes to deciding when Luke Hodge is introduced to competitive football this year despite the Hawthorn captain recently ramping up his training.
The 28-year-old has taken a cautious approach to his pre-season after surgery on his posterior cruciate ligament at the end of last season.
He has not taken part in any pre-season games, with the Hawks scheduled to play one more this Saturday against North Melbourne at Craigieburn.
Hodge said his experience last year that saw him try and play in round one against Collingwood only to injure his calf in the last training session before the game had made him even more cautious about his return.
"I probably shouldn't have [tried to] play the Collingwood game; I tried to train the day before and hurt my calf, and then I missed the [next] four," Hodge told SEN on Wednesday.
"Going from that, patience isn't the best part of footballers but that's the attitude we're taking this year, whenever the body is ready, and it's getting very close at the moment.
"I'm in full training with the boys and itching to get back out there.
"When games come around you're always jumping out of your skin to play."
Hawthorn football manager Mark Evans told Fairfax on Wednesday Hodge "should be playing football of some sort in round one" but it was yet to be determined if that would be at senior level or in the VFL.
The Hawks play Geelong on April 1 in the season opener while their VFL affiliate Box Hill face Port Melbourne on April 7.
Hodge said he was destined to spend more time in defence this season after such a restricted summer and given the season-ending kneeinjury suffered by Matt Suckling on Saturday against Richmond.
"Missing so much of the pre-season, I'd probably say across half back," he said.
"'Clarko' said to pinch-hit through the middle at times but I'd probably say across half-back now with unfortunately what happened to 'Suckers' last week, I reckon that would probably be the decision."
Meanwhile, experienced midfielder Sam Mitchell said the Hawks were confident they were tracking in the right direction despite a winless pre-season campaign.
The Hawks have lost to Gold Coast by one point, the Brisbane Lions by 21 points, the Western Bulldogs by one point and Richmond by one point so far in the NAB Cup.
"I think our ability to read the state of the game hasn't been great. In the first game, the scores were level and Cyril [Rioli] knocked it back into play and on the weekend we were just in front and I coughed the ball up and they ended going back down the other end and scoring," Mitchell told SEN.
"Our ability to read the time of the game and the score hasn't been great so we've got a few things to work on.
"We'd obviously like to be winning games in the pre-season but we haven't been able to do that.
"I think we played a fair bit better on the weekend so I think we're on the upward track but we've got to fast-track it pretty quickly because we play our first game in a couple of weeks and we don't get an easy one with the Cats first up."
Luke Hodge is a midfielder in NAB AFL Fantasy. He averaged 77.38 points in 2012. Register your team at our AFL Fantasy Hub.