LUKE Hodge believes he can play on for at least "a few more years" and says he has no plans to hand over the Hawthorn captaincy.
The premiership skipper, who turns 30 on Sunday, could lead the Hawks until he retires.
"I'll do it for as long as the club want me to," Hodge told AFL.com.au.
"I still really enjoy doing it, it's an honour to captain an AFL side – especially one with this history and to see the captains we've had beforehand."
Hodge took over the leadership after Sam Mitchell stepped down at the end of 2010, in a move coach Alastair Clarkson described as a "selfless act" from the ex-skipper.
Many outside the club already saw Hodge as the spiritual leader at Waverley and the smooth captaincy transition has helped pave the way for Hawthorn's unrelenting rise back to the top.
After shocking Geelong to win the 2008 flag, Hawthorn infamously slipped outside the top eight in '09. But the Hawks have played finals every year since – culminating in the club's 11th premiership last year.
Hodge boasts an astonishing 81 per cent winning record in his time as captain and the former No.1 draft pick remains one of the League's most inspirational leaders.
Any decision to hand over the reins will surely take the incumbent's wishes into account, even though the Hawks vote on their skipper and leadership group each pre-season.
"I'm rapt to still be captain and I'm happy to keep doing it, but I guess it's where the club sits - what their opinion is, the players as well," Hodge said.
"It's pretty much whatever's best for the footy club."
Vice-captains Jordan Lewis and Jarryd Roughead loom as Hodge's obvious successors but - at 28 and 27-years-old respectively - their time could pass before the opportunity arrives.
Respected midfielder Liam Shiels, 23, has been touted as a future leader, however stepping aside to mentor his replacement isn't part of Hodge's plans.
"I guess you're always trying to mentor people anyway," he said.
That natural affinity for teaching is reflected in Hodge's decision to study a level two coaching course this year.
However, Hodge said "at this stage" he plans to work in the media when his career ends, "but I'll try to play footy for a few more years".
Scaling the 300-game mountain could be beyond him, though.
He's played 237 games, considerably less than some of his 2001 'Superdraft' contemporaries, including Chris Judd (260) and Nick Dal Santo (271).
Injuries have sidelined Hodge for two games this year, while Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Brian Lake, Cyril Rioli, Ben Stratton, David Hale and Brad Sewell are among others who have also missed multiple matches.
That shocking injury toll has defined the Hawks' season to date, more so than the fact the reigning premiers are second on the ladder by percentage with an 8-3 record.
Thrust into the senior side, Hawthorn's developing and back-up players have stood up and Hodge believes they will drive the club's push for back-to-back flags on the 25th anniversary of its '88/'89 double.
"If we cop injuries it's not ideal, but you have to put up with them," he said.
"What we've been pleased with is blokes standing up – 'Gus' Litherland coming in, Matty Spangher got back in for his first game, Mitch Hallahan, Will Langford – guys that have been waiting at Box Hill for a number of years waiting to get their opportunity.
"When they have got their go this year, they've come and played the role that we expect them to. They've done what all their teammates have expected.
"When Sammy (Mitchell) and 'Gibbo' (Josh Gibson) come back, what's going to be good is the younger guys are going to be fighting to keep their spots, which is what puts a footy club in a good position later in the year."
Skippers in arms - Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge stand with Rick Ladson in the 2008 Qualifying Final against the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Media
Provided Hawthorn overcomes its horror injury run, the last remaining – but arguably most important - piece of the puzzle could be Alastair Clarkson.
The two-time premiership coach is recuperating at home after his battle with Guillain-Barre syndrome and isn't expected to resume in the hot seat for at least another four games.
His assistant, Brendon Bolton, survived a huge scare from GWS in his first match in charge but enjoyed an easier ride in the Hawks' 44-point win over West Coast on Saturday.
Hodge believes Bolton is feeling "a bit more comfortable" in his role ahead of the Hawks' potentially tricky assignment against Carlton at the MCG on Friday night.
The Hawks have the wood over the Blues - winning the past 10 clashes stretching back to round six, 2005 – but Carlton gave Geelong an almighty scare in a five-point thriller only a week ago at Etihad Stadium.
"They hit some form last week, they pushed Geelong. They probably should have won the game," Hodge said on Tuesday.
"The way they played last week, it should be a really good game on Friday night."