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Hodge a chance to return

Sportal July 26, 2012, 3:12 pm
Luke Hodge

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Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is still tossing up whether or not to gamble on captain Luke Hodge for Friday night's blockbuster with Essendon at Etihad Stadium.

The Hawks enforcer hasn't played since Round 6 due to a persistent knee problem but is right in the mix after making it through his first match back last Saturday for VFL affiliate Box Hill unscathed.

"We'll finalise our selection this afternoon," Clarkson said at Thursday's training.

"We'll give it (playing Hodge) some consideration.

"It'll depend on how he pulls up from training today."

Clarkson said a substitutes role, though unlikely, was not out of the question but said the 28-year-old may still need more time in the VFL.

"We've got to work out whether we'll play him as the sub, or whether he plays on the ground, or whether we give him another run at VFL level," he said.

"If we bring him in as a sub, then it's likely that he'll play somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes, if the sub works out ideally and you make the sub towards the end of the third quarter.

"But if you have an injury early on and he comes on, he might end up playing 90 percent of game time, and that's not ideal."

The 2008 North Smith medallist will need at least a month of football to return to full fitness according to Clarkson, with the finals in six weeks time the major priority for Hodge.

Defender Brent Guerra is likely to be selected to face the Dons after serving his three-game ban for a high bump on Carlton's Eddie Betts, but spearhead Lance Franklin is no chance of playing.

The Coleman Medal leader took no part in Thursday's light session as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury with Clarkson declaring he would be back on the track next week with the view of returning against Geelong.

Earlier, Clarkson was on the defensive after being banned on Wednesday night for a verbal altercation with a 19-year-old official on Sunday.

Clarkson was handed a suspension for the first four games of next season's South Metro Junior Football League after abusing official Thomas Grundy at his son's under-9 game.

The Hawks coach faced the music at Waverley on Thursday morning after former president Jeff Kennett declared he would have suspended Clarkson for a week if he was still at the helm.

"I'm really disappointed with my actions, I'm disappointed it's brought such attention to the whole football world, I'm disappointed that it's brought Thomas to the attention of the whole football world," Clarkson said.

"He's a 19-year-old lad who's gone to the football to officiate in the manner that he did and he doesn't expect any person, let alone the coach of an AFL club, to talk to him in that manner.''

After Wednesday night's tribunal hearing, where Grundy verified Clarkson's version of events, the Hawks coach acknowledged he had 'learnt his lesson'.

"I got myself involved in a situation, with my profile and experience from the game, that I should have known better," he said.

"I should have pulled myself out of that situation or handled myself better in that situation."

The timing of the incident was far from ideal after Clarkson punched a hole in the wall the day prior at quarter-time of Hawthorn's win over Collingwood at the MCG.

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