Ryan Schoenmakers pounds out some laps at training late last year
RYAN Schoenmakers shapes as a genuine swingman option for Hawthorn this season, but Ben Stratton believes his teammate will again find his home in defence.
Schoenmakers played only four games last season before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Fremantle in April. After an 11-month layoff, he looks set to make his return early this season.
With Schoenmakers' return on the cards, the Hawks may face a tough time squeezing him in alongside high-calibre defenders in Norm Smith medallist Brian Lake, best and fairest winner Josh Gibson and Stratton.
It has been suggested Schoenmakers may be pushed forward to mitigate the loss of Lance Franklin, but Stratton said the defensive unit was prepared to be accommodating.
"It'll be interesting to see where 'Schoey' fits in," Stratton told AFL.com.au.
"I'd like to have him back. I could probably see him playing more in the back half, just because that's where he is most settled.
"But with Lance leaving then he (Schoenmakers) could be a good replacement there as well."
Schoenmakers has been training as a forward and a defender so far this pre-season, giving him the flexibility to play at either end of the ground in 2014.
Stratton, who injured the lateral, medial and posterior cruciate ligaments in his knee in 2011, has only admiration for the way Schoenmakers has attacked his rehab.
Stratton has been equally impressed with the progress of Matthew Suckling.
Suckling also tore his ACL – in last year's pre-season – and appears a certainty to fill the void left by retired premiership backman Brent Guerra this year.
Suckling is the man most likely to provide the Hawks with their feted rebound from defence, but Stratton also nominated Taylor Duryea as another option.
"Hopefully they both play. Taylor was very unlucky to miss out on the Grand Final last year," Stratton said.
"I think 'Suckers' will slot into that backline and Taylor will play 15-20 games after having that year under his belt."
Stratton has kept a close eye on Schoenmakers' and Suckling's progress from their respective knee injuries.
And, although the injury Stratton suffered was different, he has felt a responsibility to provide his teammates with the necessary advice as they gear up for the final – and most important – stage of their rehab.
"You're fit, you can run for days, but it's the match play fitness that's a little bit different," Stratton said.
"I felt fit as running around the oval, but when it came to short sharp bursts in close, that was the hardest thing."