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Hawk Sicily comes forward as Roughead replacement

Travis King  March 12, 2016 11:15 PM

Roughy-less Hawks honing 'synergy' Hawthorn assistant coach Cameron Bruce says covering the absence of Jarryd Roughead is at the forefront of minds
AFL 2016 NAB Challenge - Hawthorn v North Melbourne

James Sicily has made a claim on Jarryd Roughead's forward spot

Sicily's got a fair bit of X-factor about him

HAWTHORN appears to have escaped relatively unscathed from Saturday night's bruising encounter against North Melbourne, with only Liam Shiels under a cloud for round one due to a sore wrist.

Shiels came from the ground cradling his wrist in the final term and went straight to the rooms, playing no further part in the 45-point runaway NAB Challenge triumph over the Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium.

Billy Hartung (knee) was held back from the second half as a precaution, while skipper Luke Hodge was managed and also didn't take the field after the long break.

Click here for full match coverage and stats

Grant Birchall (rolled ankle) and Jordan Lewis (calf) were withdrawn before the game as part of the Hawks' no-risk policy.

Both are almost certain to be fit to face Geelong on Easter Monday, leaving only Shiels in doubt and set for scans over the weekend – although the important midfielder will feel the benefits of a 16-day break before the blockbuster season-opener.

"He's alright, like most of those injuries we'll know more after he's had a scan. Hopefully it's all good," assistant coach Cam Bruce said post-match.

"(Hartung) probably could have come back on but we had a no-risk policy, so we decided to hold him off and we think he'll be fine.

"If it wasn't a NAB 3, (Lewis) probably would've played," Bruce said. "He'll be training this week and the scans came back all clear.

"Grant had a little bit of an ankle injury. It's not serious again, he could have played in-season but he just rolled his ankle on Thursday, which is a bit of a shame. But it's nothing too serious."

After only booting 12 goals combined in their opening two pre-season hit-outs, the Hawks ramped up their preparations for the Cats by sending the competition a reminder of their potency, slotting 18 goals as they swept the Roos aside in the second half.

James Sicily stepped up and booted two goals, with the blond-haired youngster shaping as spearhead Jarryd Roughead's most likely replacement in round one.

"Sicily's got a fair bit of X-factor about him. He's got things that he's working on with Brett Ratten that we've been pleased with," Bruce said.

"With all of our forwards we want them to have that ability to hit the scoreboard but also to offer an ‘oppo-ball’ aspect to the game, and James is working on that and he showed some really good signs tonight.

"He'll be putting his hand up to be one of those players vying for Roughy's spot."

Hodge also spent plenty of time in attack as he collected 17 touches and booted 1.2 to inspire the Hawks, although Bruce said the skipper wouldn't necessarily be sent forward to cover for Roughead.

"We know that he's versatile and can be a weapon forward, he can go back and play a role and we'll continue to use him the way we have … over his whole career, I guess," he said.

Injury concerns aside, the Hawks were thrilled with their final hit-out, where the likes of Sicily, Jono O'Rourke, Kaiden Brand and Blake Hardwick took another step forward in their development.

Champion midfielder Sam Mitchell tuned up with a dominant performance, racking up 45 disposals – 17 contested – and seven inside 50s in an imperious display.

Despite the veteran turning 33 over the off-season, Bruce said Mitchell still sets the standard with his desire, trying to improve each season.

"He continues to do that in terms of showing that determination every year," he said.

"He's always looking for areas to improve … it's a great example for our guys coming up through the team."

Age is having trouble keeping up with Sam Mitchell. Picture: AFL Media