Taylor Duryea keen to move back to defence at Hawthorn this year

Wahgunyah export Taylor Duryea will return to a familiar role in defence after being experimented with as a forward at Hawthorn last season.

Duryea joined several teammates at Corowa’s John Foord Oval on Tuesday for the Hawks’ AFL Community Camp in the region.

The departure of former skipper Luke Hodge to Brisbane and the retirement of three-time premiership defender Josh Gibson has left a big hole in the backline.

“Last year was a bit of a different one where I played forward and played a few different roles,” Duryea said.

“I’ll most likely go down back and resume my role in the backline as a small defender.

“I’ll sort of continue on from where I was in previous years and build on that role.

“Now I’m a little bit more senior and we’ve lost a couple of senior guys, there’s probably an opportunity to continue to develop that leadership.”

However, Duryea admitted he’s unlikely to pick up the roaming role in defence that Hodge played for many years at the Hawks.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that can roam around and play as that extra in defence,” he said.

“James Sicily, Ben Stratton, those type of guys are really well equipped in the air, so I dare say I’ll stick to manning up the small fellas.”

Wodonga Raiders export Jonathan Ceglar and recently-drafted rookie Harry Jones, from Wodonga, have been recovering from injury throughout the pre-season, but have shown good signs.

“Harry had a little bit of an interrupted start to pre-season with some back stuff and John is obviously coming back from a knee reco and has been going really well,” Duryea said.

“It’s a long pre-season and you have to manage guys differently, so hopefully both of them will be available at the start of the season.

“For us, it’s awesome to have ‘Cegs’ back healthy and competing for that ruck spot.”

High-profile recruit Jaeger O’Meara has also been training well after a frustrating debut season at the club.

“We’ve just been impressed with how’s he been able to handle the load after the injuries and a lot of the pressure of coming to a new club and not having an ideal year,” Duryea said.

“It’s just great to see him doing well and have a full bill of health, that’s the main thing.”

The Hawks missed the finals last year for the first time since 2009, but Duryea admits the expectations are high to be back in contention this season.

“We’ve got a really proud group and a core group of players that have experienced success, so we expect those guys to help drive the younger players which we exposed last year with some games,” he said.

“With that in mind, we expect to have a really competitive year.”

Hawthorn will have its first run in the new AFLX competition at Etihad Stadium on Friday night against Essendon and St Kilda.

They then take on the Western Bulldogs at Ballarat on March 3, before finishing the pre-season with a clash against Carlton at Launceston on March 10.