Jack Gunston of the Hawks looks dejected after a loss during round seven. Picture: AFL Photos

HAWTHORN'S Jack Gunston has suffered an injury setback, with coach Alastair Clarkson conceding the Hawks are now focused on priming the forward for the second half of the season.

Last year's best and fairest winner, Gunston played just one game after preseason back surgery before he was a late withdrawal against West Coast with a back spasm.

Gunston, 29, will miss Hawthorn's bid for their third win of the season against last-placed North Melbourne on Saturday, and appears unlikely to feature against Carlton or Gold Coast before the mid-season bye.

"He's come back from that back surgery and he played the one game and got through the game okay but then in the warm-up before last week's game he had a back spasm," Clarkson said.

Jonathon Ceglar and Jack Gunston look on during the round eight, 2021 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the West Coast Eagles. Picture: AFL Photos

"That has settled down now but now it's trying to ascertain, given his history, just how we can prevent it from happening again because it just happens at an innocuous time.

"He won't play this week and I dare say we might not play him for a couple of weeks, just to make sure it settles down and then get the required strength program and that sort of stuff and then try and assess when and why these sorts of things happen to him.

"It's a little bit of a setback for him but, hopefully, in the second half of the year he gets some continuity and (can) have an impact for our club."

Meanwhile Clarkson insisted Hawthorn would continue to balance their recruiting between the draft, trades and free agency albeit with a skew towards youth.

President Jeff Kennett told SEN he didn't expect Hawthorn to be competitive this season or next, but to hit the draft in a bid to contend again by 2023.


Clarkson insisted top picks alone wouldn't deliver a quick turnaround, highlighting the need to find consistent performers via late or rookie selections - like Richmond.

"If you can get that type of belief and acceleration in your program then anything can happen and it can happen quickly, but it's also tough," he said.

"We've seen other clubs like Melbourne and Carlton who've gone to the draft and been unable to turn that into silverware and it's been really, really difficult.

"We understand how hard the caper is and we're just hoping that we can be one of the ones who can turn it into silverware pretty quickly."

Clarkson, contracted until the end of 2022, dismissed any discussion on whether he would be an ongoing part of Hawthorn's rebuild as "speculation".