AS IF the outlook for Hawthorn wasn't rosy enough, the premiership favourites will have vice-captain Jordan Lewis and key runner Clinton Young available for the preliminary final, with the pair recovering well from the ailments that forced them out of the Hawks side for the qualifying final against Collingwood last week.
Brendan Whitecross' serious knee injury means there is one automatic vacancy for the Hawks against the winner of tonight's game between Adelaide and Fremantle, with one unfortunate player set to be dropped from a team that won impressively against the Magpies.
Lewis, who withdrew with a hamstring complaint on the day of the qualifying final, had a lesser injury than Young, who had a sore calf and virtually ruled himself out after training the day before the game.
It appears as though the team widely tipped to win its first flag since 2008 will enter the penultimate round with no more than two or three of its best 22 missing. Whitecross, Brent Guerra and Michael Osborne (knee, out for the season) are the only players who will be unavailable for that match, with veteran Guerra still doing all that he can in an attempt to make it back from a torn hamstring if the Hawks make the grand final.
Hawthorn football operations manager Mark Evans said Lewis and Young were expected to be available for the preliminary final tomorrow week at the MCG.
Evans said the Hawks had been surprised by Young's declaration that he wasn't right last week. ''He was fine, he trained fully all week and we were perhaps a little bit surprised when he said at the final training session he just didn't quite get up to 100 per cent. You would expect him to be right after that,'' he said.
''It was an easy decision to take him out. But Jordan's [injury], it was lesser, and that was why we waited until match day to see if it was freed up.''
Evans added that Lewis, whose hardness and leadership made him a standout in last year's finals series, had suffered from hamstring tightness when he withdrew from the side and was replaced by Shane Savage, who performed well, booting two goals and will be difficult to dislodge.
''He [Lewis] trained as well and that's why we left him to the next day to see whether there was more back tightness or hamstring tightness. But no, he's freed up pretty well [since then],'' Evans said.
He said Guerra had resumed running, ''which is a good sign, but it's very much dependent on where he can get to''.
Guerra has received injections in his leg in an attempt to hasten the healing process.
''We've said right from the outset that he's got some work to, but that he and we were open-minded for him to give it a go, just to see where he could get to … stake his claim,'' Evans said.
The Hawks are well advanced in discussions about a new contract for Shaun Burgoyne, who has become increasingly prominent in the latter half of the season and been instrumental in the club's surge to the minor premiership and the box seat for a grand final berth.