BROWNLOW medallist Tom Mitchell's broken leg will have zero impact on Hawthorn's wish to unleash Chad Wingard as Cyril Rioli's replacement.
Wingard proved capable of being a match-winner as a forward or midfielder in seven seasons at Port Adelaide, where he was an All Australian in 2013 and 2015.
The 25-year-old will have a delayed start to his Hawks career because of a lingering calf injury but he is set to perform a major role in any success at Waverley Park this year.
Hawthorn gave up promising young player Ryan Burton and its first-round draft pick among other selections to bring Wingard to the club, showing great faith that he will return to his best.
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"When you're forecasting all your players and the lengths of their careers and that sort of stuff, we had it that Cyril Rioli was still going to be playing," Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson told AFL.com.au.
"That comes to, in our view, a premature end and a reasonably abrupt one, even though we knew it was probably coming, but we see Chad as being a guy who can play Cyril's type of role.
"At different stages we used Cyril through the middle of the ground and he started the 2014 Grand Final there, and we used he, (Luke) Breust, (Paul) Puopolo and (Shaun) Burgoyne on frequent occasions as pinch-hitters in our midfield.
"Chad, at some point in time, will play that role for us, too, but, by and large, we recruited him to be that dynamic forward that Rioli played as for us for a long period of time."
Cyril Rioli announced his shock retirement last season. Picture: AFL Photos
Mitchell may miss the entire season recovering from the injury he sustained in mid-January and his absence will place a significant strain on Hawthorn's midfield stocks.
However, Clarkson said the new 6-6-6 starting positions, rather than Mitchell's injury, would be a factor in how much time Wingard spends in the centre.
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"They're different types of players (Mitchell and Wingard), but we need to see what happens with the dynamic of the 6-6-6 and what that actually means," the four-time premiership coach said.
"We played against Carlton in a JLT (Community Series) game this time last year and at one stage … there wasn't a Carlton player who was under six-foot-four at the centre bounce.
"Now that you haven't got five or six players from any direction running in, is that going to mean some of those big bulls are actually exposed to quicker leg speed on the outside?
"It's going to be interesting to see that evolve … (and) whether a Chad Wingard can have real impact in a centre bounce, in particular, where there are restrictions on where players can go."
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The Hawks so far ruled Wingard out for only round one but Clarkson said he was "a fair way from playing yet" despite him making progress at training.