Defender Heath Shaw has given Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell little hope of facing Hawthorn on Friday night.
Maxwell has been racing the clock to recover in time for the rematch of last season's epic preliminary final after injuring his right ankle in the Magpies' NAB Cup win over the Saints at Visy Park 10 days ago.
But Shaw expects to run out to face the Hawks on Friday night without his skipper.
"Maxy is pretty doubtful, I think," Shaw said. "We've got our main session tomorrow (Tuesday) and I'd say if he doesn't get through that, then he won't play."
"He's keeping everyone guessing and he gives himself every chance to play and he will, like he always does, prepare as well as he can but if he doesn't train tomorrow I'd say he'd be very doubtful."
Going into the game fairly close to full strength, the Hawks are favourites for the MCG clash against a Magpies team also set to be without a host of other senior players.
Having endured interrupted pre-seasons, Chris Tarrant (shin, foot), Alan Didak (groin), Nathan Brown (knee) and Ben Johnson (hamstring) all look set to line up for Collingwood against Geelong in the VFL instead, along with Cameron Wood and Dayne Beams.
Shaw also nominated Ben Reid as the most likely opponent for Hawks superstar Lance Franklin, even though Reid also missed part of the pre-season because of a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile Hawks big man David Hale has played down both the absence of first-choice ruckman Max Bailey (wrist) and his own milestone 150th game in the lead-up to the clash.
According to Hale, Brisbane recruit Broc McCauley will be given 'first crack' at filling the breach with coach Alastair Clarkson keen for Hale to spend as much time as possible in the front half.
"Broc McCauley will probably get a crack to start with and hopefully he can do that role and play some good footy for us and give our mids first use," Hale said.
"If he can do that for our mids we've got good little fellas at ground level so hopefully Broc can do that role and if I have to come in and do that a bit more we'll wait and see if that happens."
"He has a crack in the ruck and that's all we can ask for and hopefully he can get a bit of ball around the ground."
"He is a big body and hopefully he can do that role that we're after."
As for his 21st match in the brown and gold, which comes after he played 129 matches for the Kangaroos, Hale has been rapt with his move.
"(It's) probably business as usual," Hale said when asked about his milestone.
"Games tick over and you don't really keep count of them."
"Obviously the milestones are pretty nice to get to but a win is what I'm after so that'd be the best present."
"It's been a good change, I've enjoyed every minute."
"I think I definitely needed it and North needed it as well.""It was a good change for both and I'm happy here and hopefully we can have some success this year."
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