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Hawks to put stars through intraclub paces

Jaeger O'Meara could join Tom Mitchell in the midfield in Friday's intraclub - AFL,Hawthorn Hawks,Cyril Rioli,Grant Birchall,Jaeger O'Meara,Tom Mitchell
Jaeger O'Meara could join Tom Mitchell in the midfield in Friday's intraclub

CYRIL Rioli and Grant Birchall will likely be the only senior Hawthorn players who won't take part in Friday evening's intraclub game at Waverley Park.

Rioli is training well after his delayed start to the pre-season and last year's PCL injury, but doesn't yet have the conditioning for proper match play, while Birchall is back running after more surgery earlier this year on his troublesome knee.

Jon Ceglar (back stiffness) and Kaiden Brand (thumb) are the other notable Hawks who will be watching on, while Isaac Smith, who rolled an ankle earlier this week, might also be held out as a precaution.

Hawthorn general manager of football Graham Wright said on Thursday that the teams were still being finalised, but it was most likely that Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara, whose midfield partnership has excited track watchers throughout the summer, will be on the same team.

He said the club was eager to see how its draftees, James Worpel, Dylan Moore and Jackson Ross handle the game, which will be a step up from the match simulation sessions held before now.

"They have all performed well in 18-on-18 drills. They understand the game plan and the defensive setups, so they'll play tomorrow," he said.

All up, there will be about 37 or so listed players taking part, with a handful of top-ups from Box Hill. Senior coach Alastair Clarkson is back from his trip to the Super Bowl and will oversee the match. 

Friday's hit-out represents a visible change in thinking by the Hawks, who have traditionally played their pre-season intraclub game behind closed doors and with minimal fanfare.

"It's more of a fan activation thing," Wright said. "Play it at Waverley on a Friday night in front of our members and supporters so they can see how they're faring."

The match, which starts at 5.15pm, will be followed by an autograph session and other activities for supporters usually held at the club's family day. And because of limited parking around Waverley Park, the club has urged supporters to car pool or use public transport to get there.

Meanwhile, Wright said the Hawks will likely play two separate teams in their AFLX games against Essendon and St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Friday week.

An under-23 squad will likely play the early game against Essendon, while a more experienced team will then line up against St Kilda at 9pm. Those players would then play in the Grand Final immediately afterwards if Hawthorn wins through.