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A welcome sight for Hawks fans

Clarkson: Fire burns for everyone Alastair Clarkson spoke with Fox Footy's Ben Dixon ahead of the 2018 season.

In season 2017, Cyril Rioli, Grant Birchall, Ben Stratton, James Frawley, Jaeger O’Meara and Jonathon Ceglar missed a combined 98 games for the Hawks. 

It is difficult to deny that injuries to key players such as these, who boast 12 premiership medallions between them, contributed to why the Hawks missed finals for the first time since 2009.  

But this summer has seen this group make their respective returns to full fitness.

While Birchall, Rioli and Ceglar battle to be ready for early season comebacks, Hawks fans were graced by the sight of Stratton and O’Meara back in brown and gold jumpers against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday. 

O’Meara looked unrestricted by previous ailments and showed poise and class on his way to gathering 16 disposals, while Stratton gave every indication he is back to his stingy defensive prime. 

This weekend, against Carlton, it is James Frawley’s turn to pull on the jumper for the first time in a long time.

Following the Hawks’ Round 8 win over the Brisbane Lions, Frawley was diagnosed with turf toe, which is a sprain to the connective tissue between the foot and the big toe.

Read: Hawks announce JLT2 squad

Despite initially thinking his absence would only last a fortnight, Frawley’s time on the sidelines continued to extend. 

The key defender was nearing a return in the closing stages of the season, but it was decided that the risk of re-injury outweighed the reward given that the Hawks were likely to miss out on a finals berth. 

The 29-year old believes his lengthy stint on the sidelines has had its benefits.

"I maybe even feel a bit more mentally fresh not playing for eight or nine months or whatever it was and the body's been pretty good," Frawley told Fairfax Media in December.

Watching on from the stands, the former Demon watched the development of some promising, young Hawks from a different perspective. 

"I think last year was really good to see those young boys come in and get an opportunity and they played really well," Frawley said.

"There's going to be a lot of competition for spots in the backline, Grant Birchall, 'Stratto' and myself are three guys fighting for a spot, so I guess it just makes everyone get better as a group.

"To come back and play with blokes like 'Burto' (Ryan Burton), (James) Sicily and (Blake) Hardwick, it's just exciting for us older guys to come in and try and help these younger guys develop and fast-track as quickly as they can."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs