HAWTHORN is preparing to be without important defender Blake Hardwick for the next 12 weeks as he recovers from a ruptured pectoral muscle.
Hardwick suffered the injury in a collision with another player in last Friday's practice game at Morwell and will undergo surgery.
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The 23-year-old's importance to the Hawks' backline was highlighted in him finishing in the top five in the club champion award the past two seasons, including being runner-up in 2018.
Hardwick's extended absence comes with teammate and fellow defender Jarman Impey (knee), who is in running again, also out until the second half of the season.
There also continues to be doubt about All-Australian forward Jack Gunston's availability for Hawthorn's season opener against Brisbane.
"Jack started back in the ball program last week after pre-Christmas surgery on his ankle," physical performance manager Luke Boyd said.
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"Whether he will be ready for round one, we are still unsure but that will likely be determined by how the next two weeks go.
"We're obviously aiming for round one with Jack but it's not the be-all and end-all.
"We will make sure the aim for Jack is to not just be able to play round one but be able to play and perform when he does return."
In better news, key-position players Ben McEvoy (corked thigh) and Tim O'Brien (eye), who are likely to be fit for Friday night's Marsh Community Series clash with Melbourne.
Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell (broken leg) is also set to play a full match after completing three quarters against St Kilda a fortnight ago and in Hawthorn's intraclub game before that.
"Tom played the intraclub with us and then played the following week against St Kilda, where he got three quarters of footy in, which was great," Boyd said.
"Given he hadn't played footy for 12 months, we thought it was best for him to have a week off and absorb the game load.
"He will look to play a full game this week. He is going well."
Second-year swingman Jacob Koschitzke, who had surgery after hurting his AC joint in the intraclub match, is four weeks away, while draftee Josh Morris (knee) could still be six weeks off.
Dylan Moore has recovered from hip and groin injuries that lingered through to January and he's been back in full skills training for the past three weeks.