HAWTHORN isn't taking too much of a risk by playing skipper Luke Hodge in Sunday's clash with West Coast at Patersons Stadium, coach Alastair Clarkson says.
Hodge had knee surgery during the off-season, but made a successful return with VFL outfit Box Hill last week.
The 28-year-old was initially expected to miss the trip to Perth so he could get another VFL game under his belt.
But with the Hawks desperate to avoid a 0-2 start to the season, Hodge was recalled to the side for the crunch match against West Coast.
Clarkson is yet to decide whether to start Hodge as the team's sub, but was confident the inspirational skipper would get through the game unscathed despite his interrupted pre-season.
"Originally we thought maybe the trip to the west wouldn't be the time to go," Clarkson said before the team flew out from Melbourne airport on Saturday.
"But he's raring to go. He's played a couple of trial games for us.
"We're really happy with what he's been able to do with the strong footy block he's had over the last six or seven weeks. Even prior to that, his conditioning and rehab was first class.
"If we thought it was a significant risk, we wouldn't be taking him.
"But he's the captain of our club and we're pretty keen to get him back into our side."
Hawthorn and West Coast started the season as premiership favourites, but things haven't gone to plan so far.
Clarkson endured a turbulent week following his side's 10th straight loss to Geelong on Monday.
Former Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett called for Clarkson to be sacked in the aftermath of that game, before apologising for his comments a few days later.
West Coast's 28-point loss to Fremantle was compounded by injuries to star forward Mark LeCras (arm) and defender Eric Mackenzie (hamstring), with the pair joining ruckman Nic Naitanui (groin), Sharrod Wellingham (ankle) and Matt Rosa (quad) on the sidelines.
In the absence of Mackenzie, defender Mitch Brown is set to get the daunting task of manning Lance Franklin, while rookie ruckman Callum Sinclair will make his AFL debut after Scott Lycett was dropped.
West Coast enter the match refreshed after a two-week break, while Hawthorn must deal with a six-day turnaround along with the added burden of travelling.
Eagles coach John Worsfold said he wasn't sure whether the disparity in rest would have a major impact on the match.