Calendar circled: Josh Gibson has declared he is fit enough to return for the clash with flag favourites Sydney on Saturday week, where he could be set for another battle with best mate Lance Franklin. Photo: Pat Scala
Gun Hawthorn defender Josh Gibson has declared he is fit enough to return for Hawthorn's blockbuster clash with flag favourite Sydney on Saturday week, where he could be set for another battle with best mate Lance Franklin.
The Hawks' reigning club champion has not played since tearing a pectoral muscle against the Swans on May 9, but is backing himself to make a first-up return in the seniors.
"I’ve been training for probably the last three weeks with the group and I’ve been running for a long time before that," Gibson said on Thursday.
"So I’m excited now that I get one more hitout for the bye week [this weekend] then all things going well I’m back next week against Sydney."
Whether Hawthorn's match committee shares Gibson's enthusiasm remains to be seen, but their hand could be forced by a dearth of key defenders following Brian Lake's four-game suspension.
Gibson would likely get first crack at the red-hot Franklin if he plays, but should the Hawks err on the side of caution they will need to rely on the likes of Ryan Schoenmakers, Ben Stratton and possibly the undersized Kyle Cheney to quell Sydney's rampant forward line.
Their task could become that much harder should Kurt Tippett return from a knee injury after Sydney's break, though the star forward still needs to prove his fitness.
Franklin, despite a wayward 2.7, was one of the best afield when the two teams met earlier in the season, while Tippett bagged four goals in his comeback game.
Gibson will be short of match practice should he return next week but is confident he has maintained his conditioning during his long break.
"I think I was back on the bike three days after surgery and being able to run, so I’ve been able to get some conditioning in the bottom half of the body," he told Hawthorn's website.
"It has been frustrating, no one likes to be injured, especially during the season. I’m really keen to get back out there.''
Gibson's recovery has been at the longer end of the eight to 10-week time frame given by the Hawks, who have understandably taken a conservative route with the valuable backman.
"I'm quite happy to go on record that the footy club’s been holding me back," Gibson said with a laugh.
"I thought I was ready three weeks ago, the medicos thought a different thing. They’ve probably got my best interests at heart, but I could have definitely played against Adelaide."