Injured Hawthorn midfielder Isaac Smith has flown to Perth a day early as he tries to prove his fitness for Friday’s qualifying final against West Coast.
Smith was in a Hawks advance party featuring captain Luke Hodge, Jarryd Roughead, Jordan Lewis, Shaun Burgoyne and Jonathon Ceglar who flew across on Wednesday.
While it is not unusual – Hodge always goes to Perth a day before the rest of the team – Smith’s early flight clearly is related to his recovery from a knee injury.
Smith remains in doubt after hurting his knee last Saturday in the win over Carlton.
“We’re probably a 50-50 chance, so we’ll go over to Perth and give it a crack,” Smith told the Seven Network.
Hawthorn runner Billy Hartung is the obvious inclusion if, as expected, Smith fails to recover in time.
Hartung will fly out on Thursday morning with the rest of the team.
It will mean an uncertain lead-up to what would be Hartung’s first AFL final.
“It can be difficult, but I guess I’ve been sub, so it’s almost the same kind of build-up where you have to wait throughout the game until you come on,” he said.
“You can come on any time, so I’ve been put in situations like that where a player might be injured in the first quarter or I might come on at three-quarter time.
“So I’m ready for whatever comes.”
Hartung played seven games last year in his debut season, but was left out of the team for the finals.
This season, he has continued to progress with 18 AFL matches and a Rising Star nomination.
Hartung, left out of the team for last weekend’s win, has gone a long way to putting himself in Hawthorn’s best 22.
“That side of it has been really pleasing … that I’ve been able to play some consistent footy and just try to build on that,” he said.
“Who knows? Maybe I can put my hand up for a finals spot.”
Hartung impressed in the round-19 win over the Eagles at Domain Stadium.
“If the opportunity ever arises to play finals, I am ready to put my hand up,” he said.
“I have had some good experience playing some big games this year.
“I played against West Coast … and that was a really big game for me.”