Young Hawk pushing to fill Gunston role for the season-opener

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Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston will certainly miss round one but is expected to be back in the early rounds of the season opening up the chance for an untried Hawk who arrived as a key backman to stake a claim for his debut as a key forward.

Jacob Koschitzke, the cousin of former Saint Justin, has impressed in the pre-season, and is making a push to claim a place as a key target alongside Mitch Lewis in a young Hawks forward line.

Entering his third season Koschitzke was drafted to the Hawks as a defender but late last year was switched forward as the club hunted for new key goal kicking targets. He impressed in those VFL practice matches and has trained all summer as a forward.

Hawthorn’s leadership team, including Jack Gunston (top right).Credit:Getty Images

He will play as a key forward in the practice match against the Western Bulldogs on Wednesday.

“Jack is tracking well after his surgery pre-Christmas on a disc but realistically we won’t see him round one but we will see him in the early part of the season, which is in line with expectations when he had his surgery,” Hawthorn’s general manager of football Rob McCartney said.

Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell will not play the official pre-season games as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but will likely ask to play with the VFL in the bye week before round one and be available to play in the opening round. James Sicily is the Hawks’ only other key injury and will miss most of the season.

In the last game last year Hawthorn had Gunston and Paul Puopolo in the team. Gunston is injured for round one. Puopolo retired and Jonathon Patton is still in hospital being treated for mental health problems as he awaits an AFL integrity unit investigation of claims against him. He is out of the team indefinitely.

It will make for a new-look attack.

“Mitch Lewis will play, he has had a good summer and Jacob Koschitzke is one that has jumped in the pre-season and will be a real chance,” McCartney said.

“We have been really pleased with his progress. We swung him forward late last year … and that might be vindicated. He will get a good look at it in the practice match.”

The Hawks could also rotate their rucks, Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar, through the forward line.

O’Brien kicked six goals in a recent intra-club match and will get his chance in the pre-season to assume a senior role in Gunston’s absence. About to turn 27 he has now played 78 games but has not yet consistently found the convincing performances he has shown he is capable of.

“In terms of the smalls (forwards) Dylan Moore, who played well at the end of the year and even got Brownlow votes in the last game, he will get more AFL footy and continuity of games,” McCartney said.

Top draftee Denver Grainger Barrass will play in the practice match against the Bulldogs.

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