Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge
HAWTHORN captain Luke Hodge has conceded he is unlikely to play senior football until round three or four.
Hodge is rebuilding his fitness after post-season knee surgery, and did not take part in any of the Hawks' pre-season matches.
After suffering a calf injury as he sought to prove his fitness on the eve of round one last season, the 28-year-old is taking a more cautious approach this year, and said he would need time in the VFL before returning to the top level.
That would mean missing the round one Easter Monday clash with Geelong, and the following week's away game against West Coast.
"I will be playing this weekend, but more than likely at Box Hill, just to get some run into the legs," Hodge told Melbourne radio station Nova 100 on Monday morning.
"We go over to West Coast in round two, and that's probably too big of a ground to come back on, so more likely would be [round] three or four."
Fellow Hawks Cyril Rioli (ankle) and Brian Lake (calf) are racing to be fit for round one after missing the last three weeks of the pre-season competition.
The pair trained at Waverley on Monday morning, and midfielder Shaun Burgoyne said both were hoping to be selected.
"They are fit and ready to play, so it just depends on match committee and which way they go," Burgoyne said.
"Match committee will have to toss it up – how many players do you take in with a little bit less match conditioning?
"I think it's going to be a long meeting, because there are really only one or two guys who aren't up for selection.
"Apart from the guys who have had their knees done, everyone else is putting their hand up for selection this week."
Burgoyne was confident Hawthorn could make a fast start to the season and end its nine-match losing streak against the Cats despite starting pre-season later than all teams except Grand Final opponents the Sydney Swans, and winning only one match during the NAB Cup.
"The way the guys have come back this pre-season and attacked training, the body shapes of the players are in really good nick," he said.
"We trained a lot smarter over the pre-season, so we're comfortable with where we're sitting going into round one."
Luke Hodge is a midfielder in AFL Fantasy. He averaged 77.4 points in 2012. Register your team at our AFL Fantasy hub.