HAWTHORN says its best forward mix remains up in the air, with coach Alastair Clarkson preaching patience for recruit Jonathon Patton to hit his straps.
Patton has booted three goals in three games with the Hawks since crossing from the Giants, averaging just six disposals a match.
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The Hawks have played him in attack alongside Tim O'Brien, but have included young forward Mitch Lewis in an extended squad for this Sunday's clash with North Melbourne.
Clarkson said the Hawks would decide on Friday whether Patton could make way for Lewis or if both – "or neither" – would feature in the same forward line.
"We need to work out our mix and the manner in which we think is the best way to tackle this game and the North Melbourne defence and ball movement," Clarkson said.
"We'll make those calls later this afternoon but we're still a bit up in the air on that as we speak now. We want to train a couple of things today and see how we go."
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Lewis kicked 20 goals from 12 games last season. Patton's history of knee injuries saw him miss all of the 2019 season and he had last played at AFL level in round 15, 2018, before returning to the field with the Hawks in round one against Brisbane.
The key forward's hopes of getting back to his powerful best were put on hold by the COVID-19 suspension of the season, with Clarkson saying his form hadn't been helped by the circumstances of 2020.
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"We were really pleased with the early part of last week's game. He competed really strongly," he said.
"The thing we have to be mindful of is he's missed so much footy in the past two years really, and he comes to a new club and wants to restart his career in a sense and gets significantly interrupted with a pandemic so it's been very unusual circumstances for him.
"He's played three games with our footy club and he needs a period of time to get himself accustomed to the rigours of the game again given so much would have changed since he last played so we need to give him that bit of time and patience and have that empathy and understanding for where he's at and what he's doing.
"He's still well below what we think he's capable of but he's made a contribution in the games he's played. We'll work out what the balance of our side is and move forward."
The Hawks will be aiming to back up their surprise win over reigning premier Richmond last week against the Roos, which came only a week after their dismal display against Geelong. ?Clarkson said it the club was guarding against any inconsistencies.
"Every game is significantly implicated by what goes on in the middle of the ground so if we can get that OK for us we'll go well, but if North give us a licking in that space then we're going to be in a bit of trouble," he said.