Mitch Lewis celebrates a goal against Brisbane in round 10 on May 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

HAWTHORN key forward Mitch Lewis will play his first game of 2023 against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night, proving his fitness after spraining his anterior cruciate ligament in January. 

The 24-year-old hasn't played since round 20 last season and been plagued by different injuries across the past 12 months, but will provide a much-needed target inside 50 for a side that has fallen short by less than a kick in the past fortnight against Adelaide and Greater Western Sydney. 

MEDICAL ROOM Check out the full injury list

Lewis emerged as a future star of the competition in 2022, kicking 37 goals from 15 appearances, including two bags of five and three sets of four in a year where he inked a four-year contract extension. 

When the Calder Cannons product suffered the injury during match simulation at the start of the year, the club was always confident he wouldn't require a knee reconstruction and wouldn't miss too much of the season, although his return was delayed by a couple of weeks due to some issues with his other knee. 


Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell said Lewis was almost ready to play against the Crows last week and has done enough work over the past month to be ready to come straight back in at AFL level, rather than banking some minutes at Box Hill. 

"He will come straight back in. We are really pleased with him. He was desperate to play last week and he would have played very limited minutes. We could have exposed him to some VFL last week but we thought just do everything right. He performed really well in a training session on Sunday. As long as he gets through training, he will come straight in," Mitchell said on Thursday morning. 

"Sometimes you watch a guy train and particularly coming off things like hamstrings you don't see them that much, but I've been watching him for probably a month thinking surely he's right this week. It's not just his running but his jumping, catching on the bag and landing awkwardly. 

IN JEOPARDY Ruckman's future cloudy after another concussion

"He took a hanger on the bag last week and landed flush on the ball and I thought if he can do that he can play this weekend. I had to just stay in my lane. He looks match ready. Does that mean he will be the best player on the ground and clunk everything? Absolutely not. We just need him to play his role and do his job."

New Hawks captain James Sicily endured a challenging 24 hours after comments he made about Tasmania's ability to recruit players if it secured the 19th license.

The 28-year-old apologised for those comments via his social media pages on Wednesday night and spent part of his day off speaking to key figures inside the club, including Mitchell several times.

Mitchell said the reigning Peter Crimmins medallist is disappointed by his choice of words and those comments on RSN didn't reflect the club's view of Tasmania, which has been partners with Hawthorn since the coach was drafted back in 2001.  

"He's got to learn, but by the same token he is frustrated because it's not what he meant. We've been going there 20 years, we have a great time there, we love playing there," Mitchell said.

"He obviously didn't handle his media commitments very well yesterday. He'll learn from that. It's not a reflection of his thinking and that's the frustrating part. 


"As the captain of the football club he has to be better. He is under a fair bit of pressure right now, which he understands he has brought on himself. We don't shy away from that. I've spoken to him and he is going OK. 

"I'm sure the club and Rob McCartney and Justin Reeves as my bosses and James' bosses are making sure that the club is handling it in the best way they can. Tasmania and Hawthorn have had a relationship for 20 years. There is always ongoing conversations between your major sponsor and the CEO and footy manager on a regular basis."

Hawthorn will be forced to make at least two changes ahead of a game where the Dogs celebrate Marcus Bontempelli's 200th game after Max Lynch suffered another concussion on Sunday. 

Emerging star Will Day will return after missing the past fortnight due to suspension, while off-season signing Lloyd Meek will be considered after being dropped last week following a slow start to his time at Waverley Park.