HAWTHORN defender Grant Birchall's bid to be part of the Hawks' finals campaign has suffered a blow, with a "minor" adductor strain postponing his comeback plans.
Birchall was set to play limited game time for Box Hill in its VFL elimination final against Port Melbourne last Saturday, but hurt his adductor at training during the week.
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Hawthorn's director of high performance, Andrew Russell, confirmed the fresh injury to AFL.com.au as the 30-year-old tries to put behind him a tough two years struggling with a right knee problem.
"Grant has had a number of muscle overload issues since returning to skills training," Russell said.
"The adductor strain is minor and he should be available in the next one to two weeks."
Birchall, a four-time premiership star, now seems doubtful to play in the VFL this Sunday.
The Hawks begin their finals campaign at the MCG on Thursday night against reigning premier Richmond, with the winner advancing to a preliminary final in a fortnight's time.
Hawthorn is taking a cautious approach to Birchall's return after separate surgeries in December and March to try to correct the posterior cruciate ligament problem in his right knee.
The same injury sidelined the 2012 All Australian for all bar five games last season, but coach Alastair Clarkson said at the start of last week that he had not ruled him out.
Clarkson compared Birchall's situation to that of another All Australian Hawk, Cyril Rioli, four years ago.
On that occasion, a hamstring injury cost Rioli 10 matches, only for him to return in the VFL Grand Final, sit out the last quarter, then play in the AFL decider against Sydney the next week.
"We backed Rioli in and I dare say we might be backing this guy in as well if he gets himself there," Clarkson said.
"(Birchall)'s a ripper, unheralded, (and) perhaps underrated by many in the game outside the walls of our footy club.
"But, we'd select him in a heartbeat, as much we would Rioli.
"Everyone would understand why we do it with Rioli, but we'd do the same with Birchall, if he can prove to himself and us that he can do enough to run out a game."