It wasn't about the possessions ... it was about getting the run in to the legs and getting used to the physical contest again
HAWTHORN captain Luke Hodge has made a successful return, turning in a solid performance for the Box Hill Hawks in the club's VFL practice match against the Casey Scorpions at Casey Fields on Saturday.
However, he is unsure when he will return to the senior side.
"It's hard to say (when I'll return). I guess it's all about how I recover from the game. I actually felt pretty well today, but whether it's round one (for Box Hill) against Port Melbourne or over at West Coast, I'll let the coaching staff decide that," Hodge told AFL.com.au.
"I've pulled up really well now, and I'll go do some recovery now and some recovery tomorrow morning and hopefully I'm fresh for training on Monday."
Hodge did not seem restricted by the persistent knee troubles he has battled during the pre-season, moving well in gathering 12 kicks, five handballs and six marks in his 80 minutes in the No.82 guernsey for the Hawks.
"It wasn't about the possessions or anything like that, it was more about getting the run in to the legs and getting used to the physical contest again," Hodge said.
"It was just about getting in and under to win the contested footy, tackling and getting up and running where I haven't done a hell of a lot of that over the pre-season. So I guess that will be the focus in the next couple of games."
In his first game this season, the Hawks skipper rotated from the wing, in to the middle before settling in at half-back in the second half.
His ball use was precise and he laid a couple of big mauling tackles on Scorpions opponents and a pivotal smother to protect Box Hill's lead in the third term.
However, Hodge is unsure when he will be available for senior selection, preferring to leave that up to Alastair Clarkson and the club's fitness staff.
Melbourne co-captain Jack Trengove also gained much needed match fitness in the No.46 for the Casey Scorpions, while ruckman Max Gawn played his first game after being taken off the long-term injury list during the week.
Gawn injured his hamstring in the pre-season and has impressed the Demons with his dedication to his rehabilitation. He joined in full training last Friday morning and looms as a possible inclusion in the coming weeks.
Prolific midfielders Dean Terlich and James Magner pressed their claims by winning plenty of the footy for the Scorpions, while Demons defender Tom McDonald also looked assured at centre half-back.
Meanwhile, former North Melbourne forward Ben Warren booted 11 goals in Werribee's demolition of last year's VFL runner-up Port Melbourne in the opening game of the season.
Box Hill defeated the Casey Scorpions by 31 points.
Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter at @AFL_BenGuthrie