MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Cyril Rioli (right) and Luke Breust of the Hawks celebrate during the 2016 AFL Round 03 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Hawthorn Hawks at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on April 10, 2016. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Hawthorn champion Cyril Rioli is expected to make his return to the club in the coming weeks after being granted compassionate leave back in November.

Rioli’s father, Cyril jnr, underwent surgery late last year after suffering a heart attack in Grand Final week, with the Hawthorn star returning to Alice Springs in November to be with his family.

The 28-year-old was one of just two players who missed Hawthorn’s training session in Moe on Wednesday, with teammate Luke Breust expecting his forward line companion to be back training by the end of the month.

“We’re still giving Cyril time,” Breust told the media in Moe.

“We expect him back at the club in the next few weeks and he’ll just rejoin the group and continue to come in and train as normal.”

The other Hawk that missed the session was veteran Grant Birchall, who is on a modified program as he deals with a knee injury.

With the Hawks beginning to ramp up their preparations following the Christmas break, Breust is one of a number of senior players hoping to turn their form around in 2018.

He managed just 33 goals last season – his lowest goal tally since his rookie year in 2011 – but believes the progress he’s made already this pre-season will hold him in good stead come round one.

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“I was a little bit disappointed in my season last year, so I’m looking forward to having a stronger season in 2018,” Breust said.

“My body’s feeling really good – it’s probably the best start I’ve had to a pre-season in a number of years, so I’m really looking forward to the season.

“It was tough (dealing with criticism last year), but that’s just routine media and AFL scrutiny you get these days.

“You try and put that behind you, you stick together as a group, and you have a bit of a joke around it with a number of guys whose names were getting mentioned.”

Breust also told the media he believes Jack Gunston will move back into the forward line for the majority of the season, while James Sicily and Tom O’Brien will spend time at both ends of the ground.