Hodge primed for big return against Suns

On the back of three successive losses, luckless Gold Coast must now face reigning premiers Hawthorn with a fired-up Luke Hodge returning from suspension just for good measure.

The Hawks’ skipper makes a welcome return after serving his three-game ban for striking North Melbourne’s Andrew Swallow against the injury-hit Suns in Launceston on Saturday.

Hodge’s side suffered two losses in his absence and Alastair Clarkson said the premiership captain was primed for a big return.

“He’s a very tough and fair player in most instances … he was untoward on that occasion and he copped his whack but he’s pretty keen to play well in the next few weeks,” Clarkson said.

“He’s an important player for our footy club and he just gives us a lot of leadership and strength through the middle of the ground and in our back half, so he’s a welcome addition to our side particularly with (Grant) Birchall going out.”

Birchall jarred his ankle in last week’s tight loss to Sydney that left Hawthorn in seventh spot with a 4-4 record, and will miss one to two games.

Taylor Duryea comes back into the side along with debutant Daniel Howe, while Will Langford (calf) and Matthew Suckling (omitted) drop out.

Suckling paid the price for a drop off in form and a couple of notable skill errors against the Swans, but Clarkson backed him to bounce back.

“He’s been a very, very good kick for a very long period of time and he hasn’t been as good in that regard over the last few weeks,” he said.

“Since he’s come into the side I think it’s the first time he’s been omitted since he was just a young fella.

“He’s an important part of our side, but he’s just not playing as well as he possibly could at the moment.

“That happens to players … (but) he’s a pretty proud person and he’ll bounce back pretty quickly.”

Gold Coast sit in 17th place with just one win and their bad run of injuries continued with Dion Prestia out for up to 16 weeks with a knee injury, but they at least regain Steven May and Jack Martin.

“The Suns have been really good in the midfield despite them not being so good in terms of their win-loss record,” Clarkson said.

“They’re really high up in terms of their clearances and really high up in contested ball so that gives us a really clear focus.”

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