Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson refuses to use injuries as an excuse but has conceded that they have played a role in the club’s fortunes in 2019.
The Hawks lost reigning Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell to a broken leg in January, while key players Liam Shiels, Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne, James Frawley and Chad Wingard have all missed at least three games in the opening half of the year.
Wingard will be sidelined for Friday night's clash with Essendon for the third time since the start of this season due a string of minor soft tissue issues, the latest a hamstring injury.
Clarkson said the priority for the forward in his latest stint on the sidelines is to make sure when he returns to the Hawks line-up, he returns with longevity.
"He's had three or four of these tiny little niggles that have caused him to miss weeks here or there, and the concern is that he can't get any continuity with his footy," Clarkson said.
“We need to work that out.”
Having named just one unchanged line-up this year, Clarkson said the seemingly constant stream of injuries provides obvious challenges to the side’s consistency.
"It makes it difficult.
“You have the old adage that you replace a player, but there gets to a tipping point where you miss one or two players.
“We haven't been as disrupted as the Tigers, and you say injuries aren't an excuse, but it certainly doesn't help.”
Although Clarkson was also sure to point out the positive flipside of having senior players sidelined.
"We've got some young players getting great exposure, with Tom Mitchell being out of the side, Worpel and Cousins have had a great opportunity to learn some things.
"I'm sure there's some supporters sitting there saying 'we're liking what we're seeing’ in terms of the future of our footy club with some of these young players coming through.”