AFTER a season ruined by two back operations, Hawthorn forward Jack Gunston is on track to return to full fitness ahead of the 2022 campaign.

Gunston underwent the first operation on his troublesome back in December last year and managed just one game, against St Kilda in round seven, before the problem flared again.

The 30-year-old had another operation in August and is now running again after recovering from the latest procedure.

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"Jack has been building a really good strength base over the past couple of months and has now commenced his running program," Hawks physical performance manager Luke Boyd told

"He has been feeling really good after the follow-up procedure and he's been in at the club on a regular basis lately to ensure he is getting himself in the best shape possible.

"The big focus for him has been to build his strength through his hips and back in preparation for next year.

"We anticipate that he is going to get a really strong pre-season in given the surgery was early enough in off-season."

Hawthorn's Jack Gunston in action against St Kilda in round seven, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Gunston's interrupted 2021 came after arguably his best season in 2020, when he was named in the Therabody AFL All-Australian squad of 40, and won the club's best and fairest award.

He booted 31 goals from 16 games to finish third in the 2020 Coleman Medal and claim the club's goalkicking award for the third time.

With Hawthorn set to embark on a period of renewal under new coach Sam Mitchell, Gunston was the subject of trade talk throughout the second half of the season but, like teammates Jaeger O'Meara, Chad Wingard, Tom Mitchell and Luke Breust, will be at the Hawks in 2022.