HAWTHORN star Tom Mitchell still has no set date on his return to the playing field but is hopeful he can be ready to get back early in the season.
Mitchell broke his leg in a training incident 12 months ago last Saturday and missed the entire 2019 season as he recovered from surgery to repair the horror injury.
The Brownlow medallist told SEN Radio on Wednesday that his rehabilitation has gone well, and he's started integrating into team training drills with the Hawks over summer.
But the 26-year-old needs the approval of Hawthorn's medical staff before he can step up his work on the track, and he has plenty to tick off before he can be considered a chance to play.
The Hawks take on Brisbane at the MCG to open their home-and-away season on Sunday, March 22.
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"I'm running, kicking and changing direction, so everything I'm going to need to be able to do to play, I've started doing it, just at a lower level (of intensity)," Mitchell said.
"Ideally, I'd love to do as much training as I can but coming off a pretty nasty injury, I've got to be a little bit realistic and train smarter rather than harder.
"I have to pick sessions to train with some intensity and then know when to bring it down so my body can adjust to the training loads.
"I'm enjoying being amongst the boys and being a part of the team instead of running laps by myself."
Mitchell was the game's No.1 onballer when he gathered a staggering 848 possessions from his 24 games in 2018, and he remains confident he can recapture that kind of form this year. He's just unsure exactly when that will be.
Gun youngster James Worpel stepped up in the absence of his star teammate, winning the Hawks' best and fairest, and Mitchell believes the club's depth will allow him to ease back into footy.
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"I would definitely like to get back to the standard I was playing at, but I'm not sure how long that's going to take coming off a big injury," he said.
"We've got a number of midfielders running through there and guys on the outside like Isaac Smith, Ricky Henderson and Tom Scully, so I feel like we've got a really deep midfield.
"Whether that means we spread the load a little bit more, I think that will help the team, but I'm not sure how it will all look once games start."
The Hawks take on St Kilda in a practice game in Morwell on Friday, February 28, ahead of the Victoria v All Stars charity game at Marvel Stadium the same evening.
The teams will be extremely familiar with each other after meeting in round one of the Marsh Community Series on Thursday, February 20.