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Stronger Schoenmakers offers versatility for Hawks

Ryan Schoenmakers is congratulated by teammates.

Ryan Schoenmakers is congratulated by teammates. Photo: Getty Images

If you thought Ryan Schoenmakers looked glad to be back, you were right: he hadn't played in a year. If you thought he enjoyed kicking four goals, you were spot on: he hadn't done that since high school.

Schoenmakers might also have looked a bit more buff than when you saw him last, and certainly much bigger and stronger than the skinny kid that started out in Hawthorn's back line. That's because he is. But not necessarily by design.

It hasn't happened all on its own. Schoenmakers is 23 now, and in his sixth season, naturally bigger and a player who never had to spend much time in the gym to put on size before he injured his knee in early last year and had no choice but to be in there. But the Hawks haven't forgotten what Schoenmakers was doing before he got injured: playing the best football of his career, keeping Brian Lake out of the side.

On Sunday they saw him pick up where he left off after the first four games, albeit in the forward line, where he kicked four goals before Lake's calf injury forced him to a more familiar part of the ground.

''He's definitely gotten bigger, but that's not deliberate,'' said football manager Chris Fagan, who watched Schoenmakers' recovery.

''He stacks on weight easily, so it wasn't a part of the strategy in bringing him back. In fact, when they're coming back from knees you don't want them too big and heavy.

''He's not, and he's still running really well, so I think a lot of it's just natural maturity. And no one's forgotten how well he played at the start of last year. He wasn't the kid getting rolled by Travis Cloke, Tom Hawkins and all the big guys, he was playing really well before he did his knee.

''When we brought him back we knew we had a guy who could do that, or play down the other end, and that's still the plan. I don't think anyone expected him to jump straight up and kick four goals, but we knew he'd do everything possible wherever he was needed.''

The Hawks don't expect that to change. Schoenmakers was drafted to Hawthorn having played most of his junior football leading up out of the forward line. Starting out down back, he was always able to run and to keep up with anyone, no matter how much stronger they were.

He still has that ability despite becoming bigger - Luke Hodge kept spotting him up on the wings on Sunday - and while Fagan isn't sure how he'll handle the either-end role the coaches have planned for him, given he's played just one game back, he's certain he has the temperament to cope as well as anyone with any quick switches.

''We'll have to look at that over time, but he did it pretty well on the weekend. He kicked four and then was happy to go back and do his job when Brian got injured. There's not much fuss about him, I reckon he's just happy to be back playing,'' Fagan said.

''He's very team-oriented, so I think he's happy to do whatever role he's needed to do, and he should have the confidence now that he can do either or.

''It's not about having one person have the ball kicked to them all the time, it's about having six people getting the ball kicked to them some of the time, and I think he suits that. And he's the same down back. He really cares about his teammates and they were pretty happy to see him back out there too.''

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