Hawthorn have ruled out Jack Gunston for their AFL preliminary final against Fremantle, conceding three days out that he will not be ready.
While the forward has made progress in his recovery from an ankle injury, the Hawks have given up on trying to bring him back against the Dockers.
Gunston, Hawthorn’s leading goalkicker this season with 53, suffered the injury in the last quarter of their qualifying final loss to West Coast and this will be his second week out of action.
Hawks football manager Chris Fagan said Gunston had pulled up well from training, but still had not done enough to justify the risk.
“We decided this morning he hasn’t quite made enough progress to warrant his selection,” Fagan told the club website.
“We’re happy with how he’s improved, but we don’t think he’s quite at the level yet where he could play in a big final.”
The Hawks remain hopeful that, should they beat the Dockers, Gunston could return for the grand final.
While Gunston’s continued absence is a blow, otherwise the Hawks are in good shape for the preliminary final.
They rebounded strongly from a poor loss to West Coast, belting Adelaide last Friday night in their semi-final.
Star Hawks midfielder Jordan Lewis added they would be better prepared this time for the Domain Stadium cauldron.
He admitted on Wednesday that the Hawks had not handled the hostile Perth crowd well in the loss to the Eagles.
“It’s pretty vivid in our memories that we were probably intimidated, a little bit, to be honest, by the crowd,” Lewis said.
“But we’ve learned a lot of lessons from that game and hopefully we prepare ourselves a little bit differently for the crowd this time.”
Lewis noted their last two games before the West Coast game were low-key wins over Brisbane and Carlton.
“We’ve played in big games a lot in recent years,” he said.
“But it was probably the two games leading into the finals, the crowd wasn’t as big and it wasn’t as vocal.
“It shouldn’t have come as a shock, but we probably weren’t ready for it and we probably got overawed by it a little bit.
“That was a really good lesson for us to learn – we didn’t play our best football and the crowd was probably a key factor.”
Lewis was among six Hawks who flew to Perth on Wednesday a day early for the preliminary final.
Captain Luke Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne, Jarryd Roughead and Isaac Smith also went ahead of their teammates, along with emergency Jonathon Ceglar.
Fremantle have their own injury concerns, with star onballer Nat Fyfe admitting an ongoing leg injury is a nuisance.
But Lewis said Fyfe remains a big threat.
“Nat Fyfe at 80 per cent is still obviously a really dangerous player,” Lewis said.
“You can’t go into the mindset of just targeting players, because you get a bit overawed by that and a bit consumed by that.”