HAWTHORN'S bid for a return to the finals has been dealt a huge blow with star defender James Sicily to miss six weeks with a wrist injury.

The 23-year-old rebounding defender, who was in contention for All Australian selection, suffered a broken scaphoid in the loss to the Brisbane Lions on Saturday.

"It's obviously really unfortunate for James and the club,” said Hawthorn’s general manager of football, Graham Wright.

"James has been in great form of late, and he’ll be really difficult to replace. But, this presents an opportunity to the guys who have been in good touch at Box Hill."

Sicily has averaged 24 disposals, 7.5 marks and 4.7 rebound 50s in his 14 games this year. His first half of the year was marred by some ill-discipline that cost him a pair of one-match suspensions, but his football since then has been outstanding and perhaps only Tom Mitchell is having a better season.

His ability to read the play, back himself and generate attacking moves from the backline has been first-class this year and his field kicking has generally been elite.

David Mirra and Kaiden Brand shape as the most likely defensive replacements for the Hawks, who will be without Shaun Burgoyne for at least one more week as he recovers from a hamstring strain. 

Better news for the Hawks is that Grant Birchall has returned to training, having not played for more than a season because of persistent knee injuries.

"He's improving all the time and we're happy with the way he's going. He's started to do some ball work. How quickly he progresses from here we’re not sure, but he's progressing well and we're encouraged by the work he's doing," said Hawks high performance manager Andrew Russell.

The Hawks (9-7) face lowly Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Sunday and simply must win to remain in the finals race. Then it ramps up with Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Essendon and Geelong at the MCG, St Kilda at Etihad Stadium and Sydney at the SCG.

They'll likely need to win four of those to give themselves the best chance of playing in the finals.