AS Hawthorn gears up for their Round 2 clash with Geelong at GMHBA Stadium next Friday night, all eyes remain of star midfielder Jaeger O’Meara as he races the clock to be fit for the resumption of the 2020 season.
Suffering a facial fracture in the Hawks first contact training session last Monday, O’Meara is pressing his case according to skipper Ben Stratton.
“It’s a bit of a tricky one, but he’ll probably push to play, but it will be up to the doctors in the end,” Stratton said.
“You don’t want to stuff around with a facial injury, and definitely not with a guy like Jaeger who prides himself on his looks.
Like the majority of his Hawthorn teammates, Stratton has never set foot on the playing surface at Kardinia Park.
However, he looks forward to embracing the challenge of claiming a win in unfamiliar territory.
“I watched a Box Hill game there once, and I’ve driven passed a lot of times, but I’ve never played there,” Stratton said.
“The oval is a lot skinner so (we’ve been) just marking out the oval and doing those standard things.”
Along with the ground dimensions, the three-time premiership Hawk is expecting the weather conditions to play a part.
“I’d imagine being near the coast it’s going to be windy, wet, frosty,” Stratton said.
“We had a nice wet training day on Monday. You would assume down there you might get some average weather, so (it’s about) just preparing for those sorts of things mentally.”
While Stratton admits he has picked up a few bumps and bruises as the players get used to contact training, he is expecting it to take some time before players run into match fitness with a short leadup to Round 2.
“Three weeks of training and then straight into it, so mentally preparing for battle really,” he said.
“Everyone is pretty fit and ready to go, they’ve got themselves in good nick over the break, so I think it’s just about the mental side of things.
“You get the odd little corky and stuff like that, but that’s all part of it.
It will probably take the first month or so of games to get match hardened and your body to harden up a little bit.”
Holding an 8-9 win-loss record against the Cats over the course of his 189-game career, Stratton will be looking to even the ledger in one of the modern era’s most enthralling rivalries.
“No matter where we are on the ladder it’s always a close game,” he said.
“Even if you are up by 40 points, it somehow ends up being a close game.
They are finals games; that’s how I would describe it. You got those extra nerves, that little bit extra excitement.”