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Four out-of-contract Hawks left in limbo

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Jono O'Rourke's camp is confident he will at least be a rookie - AFL,Contracts,Trade,Hawthorn Hawks,Jonathan O'Rourke,Kade Stewart
Jono O'Rourke's camp is confident he will at least be a rookie

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OUT-OF-CONTRACT Hawks Jono O'Rourke and Kade Stewart won't know their playing fates until after this week's NAB AFL Trade Period. 

They are two of four Hawthorn footballers still seeking a contract for 2018, along with Billy Hartung – who may be offloaded for a top-40 draft pick – and Kurt Heatherley. 

The O'Rourke camp is confident the No.2 pick in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft will remain at the Hawks next year as a rookie at minimum. 

The former Greater Western Sydney midfielder failed to play a senior match for the first time in his five seasons on an AFL list as he again dealt with hamstring issues. 

O'Rourke, 23, scattered 18 games across his previous four years, including nine in his first two seasons for Hawthorn after the Hawks traded picks 19 and 43 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft to the Giants.

The Calder Cannon product's brutal injury run started in his debut season at GWS, when he sustained a broken jaw, on top of shoulder and hamstring setbacks.

Hawthorn successfully concocted a training plan to remedy triple All Australian and 2015 Norm Smith medallist Cyril Rioli's repeat hamstring injuries, and may need to try something new with O'Rourke. 

Stewart, 20, added only four matches this year to the three he played in 2016, instead playing 16 games and kicking 20 goals in the VFL despite being promoted off the rookie list. 

Discussions between the West Australian's manager, Andrew McDougall, and the Hawks are expected to heat up after Thursday's end to the Trade Period. 

Heatherley, 22, made history as the first New Zealand-raised footballer to play an AFL game in round 20 last year, but opportunities were scarce in 2017 as he battled for four more matches. 

Rookie-listed pair Luke Surman and Jack Fitzpatrick have retired, along with premiership stars Josh Gibson and Luke Hodge. 

Hodge, 33, has since backflipped and will continue his 305-game career at the Brisbane Lions, under Hawthorn's former head of football Chris Fagan.

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