Hawthorn Hawk Jacob Koschitzke pushing to fill Jack Gunston role for round one

“Jack is tracking well after his surgery pre-Christmas on a disc but realistically we won’t see him round one but we will see him in the early part of the season, which is in line with expectations when he had his surgery,” Hawthorn’s general manager of football Rob McCartney said.

Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell will not play the official pre-season games as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but will likely ask to play with the VFL in the bye week before round one and be available to play in the opening round. James Sicily is the Hawks’ only other key injury and will miss most of the season.

In the last game last year Hawthorn had Gunston and Paul Puopolo in the team. Gunston is injured for round one. Puopolo retired and Jonathon Patton is still in hospital being treated for mental health problems as he awaits an AFL integrity unit investigation of claims against him. He is out of the team indefinitely.

It will make for a new-look attack.

“Mitch Lewis will play, he has had a good summer and Jacob Koschitzke is one that has jumped in the pre-season and will be a real chance,” McCartney said.

“We have been really pleased with his progress. We swung him forward late last year … and that might be vindicated. He will get a good look at it in the practice match.”

The Hawks could also rotate their rucks, Ben McEvoy and Jon Ceglar, through the forward line.

Tim O’Brien kicked six goals in a recent intra-club match and will get his chance in the pre-season to assume a senior role in Gunston’s absence. About to turn 27 he has now played 78 games but has not yet consistently found the convincing performances he has shown he is capable of.

“In terms of the smalls (forwards) Dylan Moore, who played well at the end of the year and even got Brownlow votes in the last game, he will get more AFL footy and continuity of games,” McCartney said.

Top draftee Denver Grainger-Barras will play in the practice match against the Bulldogs which is expected to be an eight quarter hit-out.

The Western Bulldogs confirmed that No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan would play but his minutes would be managed in his first interclub hit-out.

Recruit Adam Treloar is on track to play round one after experiencing calf tightness, however the Bulldogs remain uncertain as to whether he will play in their community series match against Melbourne on March 8.

Meanwhile Collingwood wingman Chris Mayne is likely to miss the Magpies two pre-season hit-outs against other clubs after he copped a head knock during match simulation at training on Tuesday.

The Magpies confirmed that the 32-year-old had been diagnosed with concussion, which immediately sidelines him for 12 days under new concussion protocols.

Collingwood play Geelong at GMHBA Stadium on Friday morning and then are scheduled to play Richmond at Marvel Stadium the following Friday night.

Mayne suffered a fractured cheekbone and was concussed against Carlton in round 14 last year but returned to play in the elimination final.

With Peter Ryan

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Justin Koschitzke encourages former St Kilda Saint Paddy McCartin to abandon return

“Brain injuries can be terrible in later life and I’m experiencing that first hand. I would really encourage him to make a really intelligent decision and not go on.”

Koschitzke was on the Gold Coast Suns coaching staff earlier this year before being let go in the cull of coaching roles across the AFL following COVID-19.

He is now on his family farm helping his brother prepare for a bumper harvest but admitted he is closely watching his own brain issues following several jarring concussions in his 200-game AFL career.

“I’ve got really bad memory loss and bad mood swings and down times. I have no doubt it’s from the concussions,” Koschitzke said.

“I certainty feel after the hit in 2006 I changed as a person. I really reckon it affected my personality.


“I have to really watch myself, be careful of what I’m doing and work on myself. No doubt it has had a big impact.

“This is what Paddy should be looking at. He might feel fresh and fine now, but it’s the long-term impacts. You look at guys who had some big knocks in their 40s and 50s, I’m certainly concerned about that with the older I get.”

Koschitzke said he hoped to return to an AFL role, possibly with the Saints, once Melbourne opens up again and he also put forward a strong endorsement for former Saints and Fremantle coach Ross Lyon, should he push for a return to coaching.

“I love him. Sometimes he can be a polarising person but he would wind us up so we could run through brick walls,” Koschitzke said.

“He was just so passionate and loyal to his players. The boys still speak regularly and go out to eat. I reckon he is the funniest man in the media, he’s a brilliant coach, a very good motivator and I’d love to see him get another gig.”

Koschitzke’s comments came as the AFL reported that the number of concussions dropped from 2018 to 2019 (74 to 65). This also represented a drop in the incidence of concussion (number of concussions per 1000 player hours) from 2018 to 2019. The incidence number (6.54) was as low as it had been since 2015.

Matches missed due to concussion, per club, per season, also increased from 5.45 in 2018 to 8.04 in 2019.

“This reflects an ongoing conservative management approach,” an AFL statement read.

AFL head of football Steve Hocking added: “We have strengthened match day protocols for the identification and management of concussion, we continue to change the laws of the game to discourage high contact and also moved earlier this season to change the tribunal rules, to more strictly sanction tackles that endanger the head.”

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