HAWTHORN has emerged as a serious contender for wantaway Melbourne ruckman Braydon Preuss, who is set to change clubs for the second time in three years.
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That development comes as Sydney considers making a play for contracted West Coast big man Tom Hickey, after No.1 ruckman Sam Naismith suffered his second ACL rupture in June.
AFL.com.au revealed a fortnight ago that Greater Western Sydney and the Swans had shown interest in luring Preuss from the Demons, where he's contracted for two more seasons.
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However, it's believed the Hawks are also keen on the lightly-played 25-year-old as they weigh up what to do with their ruck stocks.
They placed great faith in Jon Ceglar last year, offering him a three-year deal and installing him as their No.1 big man to convince him not to sign with Brisbane as a free agent.
That decision saw Hawthorn switch Ben McEvoy into defence – a move that's worked well – but Ceglar had an underwhelming season, while the Hawks were one of the AFL's worst clearance sides.
Behind them is project ruckman Ned Reeves, who is contracted for next year, while the Hawks also signed Keegan Brooksby on season eve for further ruck insurance.
Making Hawthorn's interest in Preuss more intriguing is that Melbourne is courting triple premiership Hawk Isaac Smith, an unrestricted free agent, to fill the wing role opposite Ed Langdon.
Preuss' career started at North Melbourne and his decision to join the Demons at the end of 2018, to be the clear No.2 behind Max Gawn, raised eyebrows across the competition.
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He played only 10 games in the past two seasons and slipped to third in the pecking order this year behind hotshot draftee Luke Jackson, but his 206cm height and rugged style ensure he has admirers.
Hickey, 29, could join a fourth club if a move to Sydney eventuates, after St Kilda traded him to the Eagles two years ago. Prior to that he was at Gold Coast. He may even come into the Giants' sights if they miss out on Preuss.
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Naismith's injury leaves the Swans short on ruck depth, with only Callum Sinclair and uncontracted pair Hayden McLean and Michael Knoll on their books outside of him.
The annual ruck merry-go-round is again in operation, with rival clubs believing Eagle Nathan Vardy, Collingwood's Max Lynch and Power prospect Sam Hayes are among those gettable.
Vardy, who played in West Coast's 2018 premiership and was previously at Geelong, is looking for a new deal – and he might not leave if Hickey does – but Lynch and Hayes are contracted to their current clubs for 2021.