KEY defender Josh Gibson looks all but certain to return for Hawthorn’s Friday night blockbuster against Adelaide Crows.

The reigning Peter Crimmins Medallist missed the Hawks’ nail-biting three-point win against St Kilda with hamstring tightness, but coach Alastair Clarkson expects to welcome him back with open arms for the Crows clash.

“One thing we have learned over the last couple of years is don’t play blokes when they’re sort of 80 or 90 percent fit,” Clarkson told 3AW on Sunday.

“He was nearly right to go and actually really wanted to play, he hates missing games of footy, like most players.”

Clarkson said it was better to be cautious, especially at this stage of the year.

“We certainly missed Gibbo… but it’s more important we got him right, and fit and healthy again,” he said.

“He could have played… and perhaps got through, but he might not have too. That could have meant a two, three or four-week stint on the sidelines if he didn’t get through.

“He’ll be ready to go for us on Friday night.”