With the benefit of their lightest injury list in years, Hawthorn are keen to shift their AFL premiership defence into a higher gear on Thursday night against Adelaide.
The Hawks’ bye arrived at a crucial time for their list, with no less than five senior players able to return to fitness.
Key Hawks Paul Puopolo (foot), Grant Birchall (ankle), Ben McEvoy (hamstring) and Will Langford (calf) could make their returns at Adelaide Oval, with Matt Spangher (hamstring) to contend for his first AFL run of the season.
It leaves just untested Kaiden Brand (shoulder) on an injury list so short that it could mean holidays for the Hawthorn medical department.
Midfielder Isaac Smith said Puopolo and Birchall showed their improved condition in training with Langford not far behind.
“My guess is if they’re fit they’re probably playing but I don’t pick the team,” he said.
“Langers trained and trained pretty well … he’ll be knocking down the door as well.”
The Hawks fit list boosts their hopes of holding onto the premiership cup.
Hawthorn are sixth after beginning the season with a 6-4 record, with the week off giving the team a chance to reflect on their bumpy season to date.
“Well-placed would be top of the ladder like Freo or Sydney,” said Smith.
“It’s like any industry, if you’ve been up and down over a few weeks, a few months, it certainly shocks you into gear.
“As a team, we assessed the first half of the year and we thought if we can be more consistent in the second half it should turn out okay for us.
The Thursday night fixture is the first since the opening round and begins four straight matches on a Thursday night.
Smith, a New South Welshmen, said he was a fan of the timeslot even if it cost him the chance to attend rugby league’s State of Origin match at the MCG on Wednesday night.
“What about that. Grew up in New South Wales, big New South Wales fan, had my tickets, front row, ready to go,” he laughed.
“And then I’ve got to fly to Adelaide.
“It’s a pretty hot stroll when you get over to Adelaide but I love playing over there, it’s a ripping spot.
“I’ve given (the Origin tickets) to my sister so they’re pumped.”