Date: August 09 2012
HAWTHORN'S milestone man Luke Hodge has eased fears his nagging knee injury will continue to bother him for the rest of his career.
Speaking before his 200th game, against Port Adelaide on Sunday, Hodge conceded he will have to manage the knee complaint with taping for the rest of 2012, but assured Hawks fans that his left knee would be back to full strength next year.
The 28-year-old also says he is ready to go back into the midfield in bursts during the last month of the season, and is confident that he will be able to make an impact come finals as Hawthorn chases a premiership.
Hodge, who is contracted for next year, has given no indication that 2013 will be his last and says his body is feeling good, even taking into account the knee injury to his kicking leg, which has delayed this weekend's milestone match for 15 weeks.
''They've said with the knee, there is no long-term damage,'' Hodge said in an interview with the club's website. ''I will play with it for the rest of this year, but then throughout the pre-season next year, it will be fine.
''I enjoy the game now as much as I ever have, and when I had the 12 weeks out with the knee, it just showed me how much I love the game.
''A few of the boys were starting to give me a bit of lip, saying that I was a bit old, my body can't hack it any more.
''But I've been relatively lucky with injuries during my footy career, so I can't really complain just having a knee injury for half a year.
''I don't have much pace to lose, so that can't affect me, but I'm still enjoying my football and I will keep playing until that part of it goes [or] unless the club tells me to get out.''
The Hawks skipper has built up his minutes since returning from injury, his best performance being the five-goal effort he produced against Essendon in round 18. ''I've played about 70-odd in the last two games, so I think I'll be pushing to 90 or 100 this week,'' he said.
The longer Hodge stayed sidelined, the more Hawthorn feared its 2008 Norm Smith medallist would not be a factor come September.
But Hodge is sure six weeks of football before the first final is enough conditioning for a veteran like himself, and although he won't make a full-time move back to the midfield, he will be a part of the rotation. ''I think the two games I've already had, plus the four to go, will put me in good stead,'' he said.
''With our group, you don't have to play 100 per cent in the middle; you can rotate forward or back as well. So I reckon at some stage I'll be able to push back in [to the midfield].''
Hawthorn is starting to become more confident that superstar forward Lance Franklin will be ready to make his much-anticipated return against the embattled Power.
Franklin, who was involved in a car accident earlier this week, has not played for four weeks because of a hamstring injury.
''He trained really well on Saturday and again earlier this week,'' football manager Mark Evans told the club's website.
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