AFL: Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell says injury fog lifting for winless side

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Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell remains confident his side can return to its impressive form from the end of last season with a more “well rounded” team once its stars have returned.

A quartet of injured first-choice players in Will Day, Mitch Lewis, Changkuoth Jiath and Luke Breust could all be back in Hawthorn’s side within a fortnight.

But the Hawks’ season could be effectively over if they cannot salvage a win against Gold Coast on Saturday or in a tantalising round 6 clash against Alastair Clarkson’s North Melbourne.

Mitchell said the 0-4 start to the season had been disappointing but he was already buoyed by the impact returning players could have, pointing to defensive namesake Seamus Mitchell after he returned from a broken jaw in the loss to Collingwood.

“Seamus (Mitchell) comes back, and we get the confidence to be able to move Dimma (Blake Hardwick) forward knowing you’ve got someone who can defend a small (forward),” the coach said.

“That’s one player we get back, and he’s not a huge name (in) the public eye but he’s quite important to the way that we want to play.

“It gives us a team that’s a little bit more well rounded. (Hardwick) will train forward today, we want to have a look at a couple of different things and see.”

After his four-goal second half almost cracked the reigning premiers, Hardwick looms as an important forward target against the Suns in an inexperienced attack featuring talls Mabior Chol and Max Ramsden.

Lewis was ruled out of the clash due to an inflamed knee rather than the hamstring strain he suffered on Easter Monday, with Mitchell saying Lewis had been managing the knee over the summer.

“He’s had the (knee issue) for a while, he’s sort of been just carrying it and getting along. We had it scanned and it was a little bit more flared up than we thought, so he’ll recover which will help him with his hamstring as well,” Mitchell said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get him this week … but I thought Max Ramsden competed really well on one of the best defenders in the competition last week.”

Mitchell said reigning best and fairest Day was “looking like an athlete” again as he built towards a return from a foot stress fracture, while he praised James Worpel for his consistency in an otherwise struggling midfield without Day.

Worpel trails only Sydney superstar Isaac Heeney in Champion Data’s player ratings over the first four rounds.

“I think Worps is such a low maintenance athlete, he just drives himself, he always knows what he’s working on – he always looks for guidance from others, but he’s just so willing to do the work,” Mitchell said.

“And I’m really pleased that he’s been able to play so consistently. It hasn’t mattered what’s going on around him, he’s been able to perform in his role.

“He’s been consistent quarter after quarter, and I think the more players that can do that for us, the more likely we are to be in winnable positions.”

Last time Hawthorn travelled north to face Gold Coast and won was in 2014, but Mitchell said the Hawks’ poor record against the Stuart Dew-coached side would be irrelevant against Damien Hardwick’s new system.

“I didn’t know that stat – in the last couple of years we played them away last year and the year before in Darwin, but they’ve got a different coach, a different system,” he said.

“I think coaching against Dewy (Stuart Dew) had different challenges to coaching against Dimma, so I think the way the team’s set up I’m confident this week we can give it a crack.”

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