After five months without playing senior footy, could Ryan Schoenmakers jump straight into an AFL finals campaign?
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson believes so and won’t be afraid to throw his man into the middle if it comes to that.
Schoenmakers, 25, was the feel-good story of last year’s finals campaign after winning his first premiership in eight seasons with the Hawks.
He was injured in 2013, not selected in 2014 but pivotal in 2015 to the club’s third-straight flag – gathering 21 touches and kicking a goal on grand final day against West Coast, Hawthorn’s opponents once more on Friday night.
Now, without playing an AFL match since round three, Schoenmakers is poised to make a return for Alastair Clarkson’s side after a recovery from a groin injury.
The tall swingman will play in the reserves this weekend for Box Hill and Clarkson said everyone at the club was hopeful he could force his way into the senior side again.
“We were thinking at some time six weeks ago his season might be gone,” he said on Friday.
“We’re hoping he can become a player we can select through the finals or even next week (in round 23).
“He’s had a lot of time out of the game and it’s a real bonus.”
Clarkson said Schoenmakers still “had some boxes to tick” on Saturday when he is expected to turn out for Box Hill against Collingwood.
But in a season when the Hawks have missed the bigger bodies of both Schoenmakers and forward Jarryd Roughhead, his return would be most welcome.
“We’ve missed the bulk and the size of those guys … that’s centre half-forward and centre half-back of our premiership side last year,” he said.
“We’ve had to play young fellas in those roles and they’ve been inconsistent from time to time but they’ve also really pleased us with some of their progress.
“It’s a big ask to replace Jarryd Roughead. He’s probably in the best five or six players in the competition and one of the best two or three key forwards in the game.
“We’ve been okay in that area but Schoenmakers being available at some point in time over the next four weeks would help us for sure.”