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Hawks will play it safe on Hodge in AFL
Roger Vaughan
15:59 AEST Fri Feb 22 2013

Hawthorn are prepared for captain Luke Hodge to miss the start of the AFL regular season if that helps him avoid last year's injury dramas.

The star utility was plagued by calf and knee injuries and only managed 10 games last season.

His start to the pre-season was delayed by knee surgery.

Coach Alastair Clarkson said Hodge was progressing well in his training, while the player himself hopes to be ready for the round one blockbuster against arch rivals Geelong.

"He's travelling okay and he's stepped up his training over the last two or three weeks," Clarkson said.

"He'll do even more so in the next two to three weeks as well.

"We're not going to rush him - round one isn't necessarily the focus for some of the older players on your list."

Hodge is among several players who will miss Saturday's round-one pre-season cup fixture on the Gold Coast against the Suns and Brisbane.

Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis, Brad Sewell and Shaun Burgoyne are also not in the team.

But the lineup features Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli, who missed the Indigenous All Stars game against Richmond earlier this month because of injury.

"We want to take a healthy group into our round-one game against Geelong," Clarkson said.

"If our more experienced players are part of that, great - if they're not, then we're not too concerned about it."

Franklin's AFL future will be a topic for the rest of the season after he decided to postpone his contract talks with the club.

Clarkson is confident the issue will not affect the Hawks.

"I continue to treat `Bud' with the same attitude that I do with the rest of the players - that's what is critical in terms of the way we manage him," Clarkson said.

Former Western Bulldogs fullback Brian Lake will also make his Hawthorn debut on Saturday.

Clarkson said the immediate goal was making sure the key defender is fit and ready for round one, ahead of making sure he adapts properly to how Hawthorn's defence works.

"It doesn't necessarily mean he has to be up and going and full conducive to the way we play by round one," Clarkson said.

"It might take him until round 12 or longer - I'm not too sure.

"I'm sure if we get his body right, then he'll be a really good contributor for us - hopefully for a good two or three years."