HAWTHORN captain Ben McEvoy is on track to return to action within the next fortnight, three months after suffering a neck fracture during a training session in March.
The 32-year-old has only played one game in 2022 – round two against Port Adelaide – and has been forced to watch on from afar in the first season under new coach Sam Mitchell.
McEvoy wasn't required to undergo surgery to repair the fracture, but wore a neck brace for six weeks and has trained in the brace for most of his recovery.
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AFL.com.au understands the ruckman could be cleared to return as soon as next week if he completes the final stages of his rehabilitation program, but will more likely return the following weekend – July 15-16.
The two-time premiership player underwent his latest scan last week and met with the specialist who ticked off the next stage of his recovery.
Despite turning 33 next month and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, it is understood that the Hawks and McEvoy were always confident he would return from an injury that is more common in car accidents.
Hawthorn has had to deal with a depleted ruck division for most of the season with new recruit Max Lynch managing only six appearances in his first season at Waverley Park, while former rookie Ned Reeves missed six games after dislocating his shoulder on Easter Monday.
Lynch hasn't played since suffering a delayed concussion after the win over Brisbane in round 10 and will miss another game this weekend.
The 23-year-old is yet to exit concussion protocols but has made progress in the past week to the point where the club believes he could be cleared to return to action by this time next week.
Lynch has sought guidance from external experts to handle the two concussions he has received this year – the first was in his Hawthorn debut against North Melbourne in round one – after moving from Collingwood last October.
Young gun Josh Ward made a successful return from his own concussion troubles in the VFL, collecting 19 disposals and nine tackles in his first game since suffering a head knock against Richmond's VFL side on May 15.
The 2021 No.7 pick might need another game at Box Hill before he is considered for senior selection.
Hawthorn is hoping to regain Jack Gunston, Chad Wingard and Will Day for this weekend's trip to face Greater Western Sydney at Giants Stadium.
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Gunston ran out of time to prove his fitness for last Friday night's game against the Western Bulldogs after injuring his ankle for the second time this season in round 12.
The three-time premiership forward has only played one game since he was substituted out of the loss to Richmond in round nine.
Dual All-Australian Wingard is set to return from the calf tightness that has troubled him since the game against Fremantle at Optus Stadium in round 13.
Day has exited the AFL's health and safety protocols and is expected to face Mark McVeigh's side on Sunday.
All three will need to pass a fitness test at Thursday's main training session ahead of Saturday's captain's run at Waverley Park, before the Hawks fly to Sydney.