SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 19: Will Day of the Hawks looks dejected after the round 7 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Melbourne Demons at GIANTS Stadium on July 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Hawthorn are taking a cautious approach to highly prized youngster Will Day as they continue to prepare for a potentially rocky season under first year coach Sam Mitchell.

Day, who played just five games in 2021 after suffering ongoing ankle injuries, is still no certainty to return this year as he endures a slow recovery process.

Hawthorn skipper Ben McEvoy gave an update on the 20-year-old, while admitting that the Hawks still have plenty of room to improve before Round 1 gets underway.

“[It’s tracking] frustratingly slowly for Will,” McEvoy said.

“He’s very anxious to get back out there. He’s progressing along. He had a big training session yesterday and got through that really well. Next couple of weeks we’ll see him back in full training and match play.”

AFL Rd 2 - Hawthorn v Richmond
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: An injured Will Day of the Hawks looks on from the bench during the 2021 AFL Round 02 match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Richmond Tigers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 28, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Hawthorn's pre-season hit out against Collingwood ended in a draw, but by the end of the three quarters when both clubs then switched to their VFL sides, the Pies had an impressive 11 goal lead.

“I think it was Mike Tyson who said ‘everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face,’” McEvoy said.

“The first couple of quarters, we got punched in the face. That was a really good wake-up call for us.

“We were pleased with a lot of the stuff we did in terms of system, but in terms of toughness, contest around the ball, you do all pre-season competing against each other, you get your first chance to compete against opposition, and sometimes it doesn’t go so well.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 25: Ben McEvoy of the Hawks runs onto the field during the round 23 AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at Sydney Cricket Ground on August 25, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

McEvoy, who took over as captain in 2021, revealed that he will be spending more time in the forward line this season as he looks to protect his body heading into his 15th season in the competition.

“The reality is I’m not getting any younger so trying to avoid playing huge game time in the ruck makes it easier on my body,” McEvoy said.

“We’ll certainly explore playing a fair bit forward in the early part of the year, but we’ll just stay flexible.”

The Hawks are expected to regain experienced duo Luke Breust and Chad Wingard for their final pre-season hitout against Richmond on Saturday, while Lachlan Bramble will miss at least the first round of the season as he battles a stress fracture in his foot.