Star Hawk Rioli ready to roll: Clarkson

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has no qualms whatsoever in naming premiership star Cyril Rioli for his first AFL match in almost a year.

Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli will play his first AFL match since round eight last year.

Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli will play his first AFL match since round eight last year.

After a disrupted pre-season, Rioli was considered touch and go to play in round one a fortnight ago but was included in the Hawks team to face Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday night.

The forward's last game was in round eight last year when he suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined him for the rest of the campaign.

He then spent two months of pre-season training away from the club to be with his sick father in Darwin.

But Clarkson told reporters on Friday that Rioli had impressed since returning to the club in January and would not even need to pass a fitness test to play.

"Cyril's had a really strong block of training over the last eight to 10 weeks and, in particular, the last four weeks when he's really stepped up," Clarkson said.

"If we thought he was any risk then we wouldn't play him this week but his training over the last four weeks has been superb.

"When he puts his hand to be available it's very hard to say no.

"We're pretty excited that he's playing."

The Hawks will also welcome back long-term injury absentees James Frawley and Ben Stratton, who will add much-needed experience to a young back six.

Jaeger O'Meara will add some class to the midfield after he missed 15 matches last season with a persistent knee injury before returning to play the past two games.

Hawthorn will be looking to bounce back into the finals after finishing 12th with 10 wins and a draw last year, while the Pies (13th with nine wins and a draw) missed the finals for the fourth year running.

Collingwood endured a tough pre-season on the injury front with Jamie Elliott (ankle), Levi Greenwood (knee) and Daniel Wells (achilles) among the key players missing on Saturday night.

"They were pretty scratchy in their (pre-season) game against GWS, who played a great brand of footy, and then they were really good against the Western Bulldogs," Clarkson said of Nathan Buckley's side.

"But it's always really difficult in round one to get any sort of gauge on pre-season form."

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