HAWTHORN SUPERSTAR Lance Franklin is already giving his fans fits of anxiety over his playing future with the club.
And now his troublesome hamstring has come back into calculations with confirmation he won't play against St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Franklin missed six matches because of hamstring issues last season, although coach Alastair Clarkson said before training on Thursday that a scan earlier this week showed no problems and that his withdrawal against the Saints is precautionary.
"The scan showed no damage but he tried to have a run through earlier today and he's no good," Clarkson said, before adding that it was last year's prolonged absence that caused the Hawks to be extra cautious this time around.
"Last year he had a slight incidence before the GWS game. He thought he was OK and so did we but then he aggravated it and he missed a fair period of time.
"He's obviously an important player for us and we just want to make sure he's available for us at an important time.
"If he's not quite right, (then) he's not quite right, so he doesn’t play."
Hawthorn went 5-1 without Franklin last year and has won twice without him this year, but the worry is that after the St Kilda clash – which the Hawks should win comfortably – they start a tricky stretch into the finals with testing games against Collingwood, North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans.
The Hawks will need to win at least two – and perhaps all three – to ensure they finish in the top two at the end of the home and away season.
They will also be missing skipper Luke Hodge against the Saints because of a thumb fracture, however Clarkson remains hopeful that he, Franklin and Grant Birchall – who has missed five matches with a PCL injury - will return next Friday against Collingwood.
Birchall ran laps before training on Thursday and is back doing skills work.
Jed Anderson, Jonathan Simpkin, Matt Spangher, Sam Grimley, Kyle Cheney and Max Bailey were the players who didn’t play last week against Richmond but who trained on Thursday.
The Hawks are coming off an awful 41-point thrashing against the Tigers last week, just their third defeat of the season.
Clarkson said they hadn’t spent a heap of time this week reviewing the game tape.
"That hasn't been the norm with how we have presented to play footy this year so hopefully we'll see a more competitive unit this week," he said.
"It's not a pattern in how we play. We're 15-3 for a reason and we've been a good side for a long time. We'll take some learnings out of the [Richmond] game but by and large our effort and endeavor needs to be at the right level, and if it is then we're a pretty good side."
Clarkson said he had heard comments from former Hawk champion Dermott Brereton that midfielder Brad Sewell's place in the side was in jeopardy and that the team still has an issue with pace through the midfield.
"We had 22 poor performers last week, so to single one out is a bit harsh. He had 21 mates out there last week who weren't any good either and the week before against Essendon 'Sewelly' was first-class,” Clarkson said.
"That's why it's important not to read too much into the Richmond loss. The scribes are out there saying that we're too slow through the midfield and that we're no good but they were saying the same thing before the Essendon game and it didn’t come to fruition then."
Clarkson said that when Hawthorn hunts the football, it was a team that showed plenty of pace.
"Speed isn’t just all about how quick your legs go. With Rioli, Smith, Puopolo, Bruest and Hill we have a stack who are quick with their leg speed.
"But it's also quickness of mind and anticipation of the ball and that determines how quick you are as a side," he said.Ashley Browne is an AFL Media senior writer. You can follow him on Twitter @afl_hashbrowne