Hawks boosted by Rioli return

Melissa Woods

Hawthorn defender Josh Gibson says Cyril Rioli's no certainty to play in their AFL preliminary final against Port Adelaide but his side has been boosted by his return to training.

The livewire small forward has pulled up well after testing his injured hamstring with the main squad on Monday as he looks to play his first match in 12 weeks at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.

Gibson says there's no guarantee that Rioli will play with the medical staff to make the final call.

But his presence at training has sparked the defending premiers.

"Just having him out there with the guys was a real confidence boost for the group, he's such a well-loved bloke," Gibson said.

The Hawks felt comfortable they could win without Rioli given his lengthy absence.

"If he can get up and play that's great but he hasn't played since round 15 and we've been able to play some really good footy while he's been away," Gibson said.

"Everything in our camp doesn't rely on Cyril playing but if he's out there it's a fantastic boost for the club because he's a special talent."

He questioned a report that veteran Brad Sewell was a possible casualty from the side should Rioli play.

"He's an inside mid and Cyril's a forward so I don't know if they're a straight swap," Gibson said.

"Sewelly played really well on the weekend and Cyril hasn't played since round 15 so I don't know how you can make a call on that just yet."

In the only meeting between the sides this season in round 10 Port won by 14 points, with dangerous forwards Chad Wingard, Robbie Gray and Angus Monfries doing most of the damage at Adelaide Oval.

They booted nine goals between them as Port stamped themselves as genuine title contenders.

Gibson said he was happy not to handle a "big gorilla" and felt his team could mix and match to cater for Port small line-up.

In their semi-final at Patersons Stadium against Fremantle Port stormed home from 31 points down late in the second term for a 22-point win.

Gibson said the performance showed that the Hawks would need to play out the full four quarters to seal a spot in the grand final.

"You learn from that match that mentally they're a tough side, it's really tough to play footy over there and to come back from where they were.

"They've got great resilience and a well-skilled side."