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Hawks back, but key stars still missing

Cyril Rioli is yet to return to Hawthorn from compassionate leave - AFL,Hawthorn Hawks,Ben McEvoy,Cyril Rioli
Cyril Rioli is yet to return to Hawthorn from compassionate leave

PREMIERSHIP stars Cyril Rioli and Ben McEvoy were unsighted as Hawthorn returned to training from the Christmas break on Friday with a light session at Waverley Park.

Essendon was also back on the track, but most teams aren't due to resume until at least Monday.

The Hawks granted Rioli compassionate and indefinite leave in November after his father, Cyril Jr, suffered a heart attack in Grand Final week and later underwent surgery.

The 2015 Norm Smith medallist was in Alice Springs while his teammates began their pre-season of redemption, with Hawthorn missing finals last year for the first time since 2009.

A timeline for Rioli's return is yet to be set publicly, but he has recovered from the knee injury that kept him to a career-low seven matches last year.

The 28-year-old told the Hawks' website in December he would "definitely be back" in the new year – but stopped short of saying when – and was completing a club-provided program.

"My dad means everything to me and to be able to spend time with him and try and get him through the tough times has been the No.1 priority," Rioli said.

"I'm just looking forward to getting back into footy. I don't know when that will be, due to my late start to the pre-season, but (I'm) looking forward to just going out there and having fun.

"This year's been pretty tough with injury and the family stuff happening, but I think next year is (about) finding that fun again."

McEvoy suffered a hamstring injury before Christmas, but it is not expected to be a major impediment to his preparations.

He also had hamstring setbacks in 2014 and 2015.

Hawthorn is well stocked in the ruck department, with Jonathon Ceglar fit again after a knee reconstruction and Marc Pittonet fresh from a strong VFL campaign.

Grant Birchall (knee) made only a brief appearance on Friday, while Will Langford (finger) trained mostly away from the main group and Jaeger O'Meara was also on light duties.

O'Meara remains a subject of fascination because of his repeat knee injuries, but made a great impression at the end of the 2017 season and has been a pre-season standout.

Captain Jarryd Roughead (knee) missed the Hawks' New Zealand training camp, but was back running in mid-December, only nine days after minor surgery.

The dual All Australian took part in Friday's session, which lasted almost 40 minutes outside.