Hawthorn's mounting injury difficulties have worsened dramatically, with gun defender Josh Gibson having pectoral surgery that will see him miss the next 10 weeks.
Gibson had suffered what Hawthorn believed was a ''corky'' to his shoulder in last Friday night's loss to Sydney and then went on a trip to Los Angeles for the break. But his injury had not improved, according to the Hawks, and upon his return from LA, he had scans that revealed a torn pectoral tendon in his left arm.
Gibson had gone on a brief sojourn to LA - with the consent of the club leaders - and according to football operations chief Chris Fagan, the valuable defender had ''full movement and strength'' in his arm even after suffering the injury in the third quarter of the Sydney game. He was visibly sore, but stayed on and played out the game.
Sidelined: Josh Gibson. Photo: Pat Scala
Thus, the initial diagnosis had been one of corked shoulder, and it was only when Gibson complained that there had been no improvement in the pain level that the Hawks had the arm/shoulder scanned on Wednesday and found a torn pectoral tendon. He underwent surgery late on Thursday.
Fagan said the injury would see Gibson miss the next 10 weeks, which meant the club expected him to return late in the home-and-away season. If it went as scheduled, he said, this would see him playing in about round 18 or 19.
Gibson's injury means Hawthorn will be without a number of key players for the next few weeks and particularly for next week's game against Port Adelaide in Adelaide. The Hawks will miss Cyril Rioli (hamstring), Sam Mitchell (hamstring), Jarryd Roughead (one match suspension), Brian Lake (calf) and now Gibson, who is rated the club's premier defender and is arguably the game's best spoiler and ''third man'' to a contest in defence.
Rioli is slated to miss the next four matches, while Mitchell will be gone for several more weeks with a more serious hamstring, and Lake, according to Fagan, was ''hopefully only three weeks away". Port Adelaide is now a heavy favourite for that game and the Hawks rated as odds-on to lose their second consecutive game.
Fagan said Gibson's injury had been difficult to assess during and after the game because ''signs weren't obvious'' and the player had not been restricted in his movement or strength. But when Gibson returned from LA, the pain had not improved from Friday night, when typically a ''corky'' would heal. Gibson actually trained on Thursday prior to his surgery.
While Gibson theoretically might be able to play with the injury for a period, Fagan said the injury would worsen and the club did not want him to suffer long-term damage. ''We don't want him having permanent damage that we can't fix.''
Fagan said while Gibson and the other injured players would be missed, ''it gives the opportunity to other players'' to show leadership. On the positive side of the injury ledger, the Hawks will regain skipper Luke Hodge, a late withdrawal with hamstring tightness before the Sydney match, and will have Liam Shiels available from a shoulder injury, while Brad Sewell will resume for Box Hill this weekend. Sewell has not played at all during the home-and-away season after hamstring problems.
Fagan said Shiels was a chance to resume immediately in the seniors, given his fitness levels were excellent and he had been training well.