RUCKMAN Ben McEvoy is the first of a series of key Hawks set to return in the coming weeks to strengthen the club's latest premiership assault.
McEvoy will play his first game since round 15 against St Kilda on Saturday night, after recovering from a fractured cheekbone.
Captain Jarryd Roughead (ankle), defender James Sicily (wrist), run-with midfielder Daniel Howe (suspension) and All Australian Grant Birchall (knee) remain on the sidelines.
The plan is for Roughead to play in round 23, while Sicily and Howe won't be available until finals. Birchall may resume for Box Hill in the VFL next weekend.
Jon Ceglar also sustained a minor calf injury at training on Thursday, while Ricky Henderson has relented to an ongoing hip issue.
Both could be back within a week or, worst-case scenario, should be available for the first week of finals, according to coach Alastair Clarkson.
"(McEvoy) had a pretty serious facial injury, in terms of that clash in the Western Bulldogs game about six weeks ago, and had plates inserted into an eye socket on his cheek," Clarkson said.
"There are some cheekbones you can come back in one or two weeks, which is fortunate for some, but that wasn't Ben's case – his was a pretty serious knock.
"He's taken the full six weeks to recover from that, which is the normal time for a skeletal injury to recover and we're rapt.
"It's right at the pointy end of the season and he's played some terrific footy for us the last four or five years he's been at the club, and he's a welcome return to our side."
Henderson's absence opened the door for Irishman Conor Glass to return, and he will play alongside countryman Conor Nash – who made his AFL debut last week – at AFL level for the first time.
"They're great mates and they both live with this family, the Kings, in Hawthorn and they're like a mum and dad to them and like an extended family," the coach said.
"Nashy's mum and dad were over for the last month and that culminated in him playing his first game, so that was a really exciting time for him, his family and for our football club.
"But to now have both boys playing in the one side is pretty exciting, too, given they're such good mates and from the same country."
Hawthorn sits inside the top four after surviving tight tussles with finals aspirants Geelong and Essendon in the past fortnight, with the Saints and Swans to round out its season.
But Clarkson continued his theme of playing his team down, saying it was impossible to tell how his Hawks compared to the likes of Richmond, West Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
"I think we've got to put things in perspective," he said.
"I don't want this to be a discredit to the four sides we've played, but all the four sides we've played in the last four weeks sit outside the eight.
"That sounds a bit rude to say that, because we have such a high regard for Geelong and Essendon, in particular, who've been playing really good footy.
"Four or five weeks ago we came up against a side in Brisbane who we couldn't get the better of, so we're yet to actually find out where we're really at."
As for Birchall, Clarkson is confident the star backman, who has not played this year after only five games in 2017, has cleared a major hurdle.
"He's done a really good conditioning block over the last six to eight weeks, and his knee for the first time has responded really well to that," he said.
"That took 12 months to get to that stage, unfortunately. There were a couple of hiccups in there, but he's now at a space where his body's fresh enough to be able to play.
"Now he actually has to get match conditioned, which is another significant stress on his body … so that's the program for him over the next two or three weeks."