HAWTHORN will welcome back captain Ben McEvoy for just his second game this season after he was cleared to return to play from a neck fracture suffered at training in March.

However, the Hawks will be without experienced forward Jack Gunston, who will miss the clash against his old team after the sudden passing of his father, former AFL and Essendon executive Ray, on Tuesday.  

McEvoy will line up against Adelaide on Sunday afternoon at Marvel Stadium in his first game since the Hawks' win over Port Adelaide in round two at Adelaide Oval.

The 32-year-old said he was always confident of returning from the serious injury, despite some alarming impacts on his physical functioning early in his recovery. 

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"I had some nerve damage from the incident and so it took a long time for that function to return," McEvoy said. 

"I was as little as 20 per cent function in my right arm, so the boys would laugh at me - I was like worse than a first-year (player), could only lift a bar with no weights on it. It's all I could do because the pathway just wasn't firing. 

"Once it was back in my control a little bit, I was always confident I could get back."

McEvoy thanked the club's medical team for overseeing his recovery, which didn't require surgery despite the serious nature of the injury. 

"Once I felt like I was functioning normally again, the competitive instincts kicked back in and i've been really pushing for the last six or seven weeks or so and working really hard," he said.  

"Huge thanks to our medical and conditioning team, who have done a great job to try and get me ready to play AFL footy again." 

MEDICAL ROOM Check out the full injury list

McEvoy's comeback from a fractured neck was lauded as "genuinely inspirational" by his coach Sam Mitchell.

Mitchell said such was McEvoy's tenacity since suffering a small neck fracture at training in late March, the skipper was primed to play on Sunday.

"There's this great feeling not just because it's Ben McEvoy and he's back and he's the captain of the club, but also what we have seen him go through," Mitchell told reporters on Thursday.

Sam Mitchell coaches from the bench during Hawthorn's clash with the Western Bulldogs in round 15, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

"You will have seen little bits and pieces of him doing some strange exercises just trying to strengthen his neck with towels around his head.

"We throw around inspirational for lots of stories but it's genuinely inspirational how he has gone about it.

"Early on, he's on an elliptical (trainer) in a hard neck brace and then he's doing agility work and running laps with a neck brace.

"It has been unbelievable how he has gone about it."

The Hawks have ruled out midfielder James Worpel (shoulder) and defender Lachlan Bramble (back) for the rest of the season.

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Worpel requires shoulder surgery but Mitchell dismissed speculation the onballer may leave Hawthorn.

"He's a contracted player ... he is a proven A-grade player at AFL level," Mitchell said.

"He hasn't had the season that he would like but he's going to be a very good AFL player for us in the future and we're looking forward to seeing his best next season."