HAMSTRUNG Hawk Cyril Rioli is put at his "greatest risk" of injury by playing in midfield and could be confined to the forward line in future, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says.
Rioli's history of soft-tissue problems was exacerbated when he strained a hamstring in the third quarter of Hawthorn's loss to the Sydney Swans in round eight.
It could sideline the electric 24-year-old for five weeks, adding to the nine games he missed because of a hamstring injury last season.
Clarkson admitted the Hawks are still learning how to best manage Rioli and might need to rethink his midfield duties if the injuries persist.
"What we do know with Cyril is when his load becomes too high, that's when he's at greatest risk," Clarkson told hawthornfc.com.au.
"So when he does have a lot of games in the middle of the ground that puts him probably at greatest risk.
"We're learning this as we go along, but I'd suggest that he'll still have a pretty strong balance between forward line and midfield in the years ahead because he's such a special player we don't want to just confine him to one area of the ground.
"But if it means he's going to miss games of footy then it might be that we just have to eventually just play him forward if he continues to get injured."
Rioli's absence will be more keenly felt given the Hawks have also lost Sam Mitchell and Brian Lake to injury and Jarryd Roughead to suspension in the past two matches.
Josh Gibson whipped up a storm of controversy after travelling to Los Angeles to visit his partner while Hawthorn's players had a four-day break for the bye, only to return and discover he required surgery on a torn pectoral muscle.
However, Clarkson said it was "great for him" to get to the US and denied the overseas trip in any way affected Gibson's recovery time.
"A bit controversial that, but we were really happy for him to go and there was nothing that would have changed in terms of his injury management as it turned out anyway," he said.
Hawthorn has so far overcome a torrid injury toll to sit second on the ladder with a 6-2 record and Clarkson welcomed the continuing test to the Hawks' depth.
"Yes, we've got a couple of injuries but we’re looking at it as a great opportunity to find out about the depth of our squad and being able to cope with adversity," he said.
The depleted Hawks face a top-of-the-table clash with the rampant Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.