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'Nothing clear as yet': Mystery surrounds fitness of key Hawk

Hodge calls for runner rethink, Kent knocks on wood, more Matt Thompson with Footy Feed

MYSTERY continues to surround first-choice Hawthorn midfielder Dan Howe's injury status ahead of round one.

The 50-gamer didn't feature in the Hawks' practice games in the past fortnight against Carlton and Brisbane and he wasn't selected for Saturday night's clash with Richmond.

Howe, 23, has been limited at training, but, as with premiership forward Ryan Schoenmakers, Hawthorn is yet to place him on its injury list.

His absence comes at a bad time for the Hawks, who are already missing Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell (broken leg) from their onball division.

Howe joins Mitchell, Grant Birchall (knee), Jack Gunston (ITB friction), Chad Wingard (calf) and Tom Scully (ankle) in being unavailable for selection.

FULL INJURY LIST Who's racing the clock for round one?

Quizzed at Melbourne Airport on Friday about what was wrong with Howe, assistant coach Darren Glass remained coy about the problem.

"He's had a few setbacks here and there, but he's progressing well and we expect him to be available soon," Glass said.

"Howey at the moment … no, nothing clear as yet. Unsure about Howey at this stage."

Howe started his AFL career down back, but coach Alastair Clarkson's inspired decision midway through the 2017 season to give him a run-with midfield role accelerated his development. 

An effective stopping job on star Crow Rory Sloane cemented his new position and he went on to go head-to-head with the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Dylan Shiel, Joel Selwood and Nat Fyfe in the following weeks.

Fyfe was Howe's idol growing up.

He became such a pivotal cog in the Hawthorn machine that he was rushed into the senior side for finals last year despite him missing the last five home and away matches through suspension.

Howe signed a fresh two-year contract in October last year.