HAWTHORN'S gamble on Jaeger O'Meara could pay off as early as the club's round four Easter Monday blockbuster with Geelong at the MCG.
O'Meara – who has been sidelined for the past two seasons with knee injuries – has made terrific progress since joining the Hawks during the 2016 NAB AFL Trade Period.
While the Hawks are taking a conservative approach with O'Meara and won't put a date on his potential return, it's understood the 22-year-old is targeting the game with the Cats to make his long-awaited return to the field.
"We could not be more happy with the way he is going," Hawthorn football manager Jason Burt told News Corp.
"It is pretty clear he wants to play as soon as he is ready … if that is in the first couple of months of the season then fantastic.
"I'd like to think that it would be, and certainly if he continues to progress the way that he has, then you would have to think the early part of the season we will see him in our colours."
The former Gold Coast midfielder impressed the Hawks' coaches with his running and skills work at the club's training camp on the Sunshine Coast late last month.
O'Meara is slowly building up his workload after almost 1000 days on the sidelines nursing patella tendon problems.
"He has been out for a long time, so Jaeger is not going to push things because he knows the result at the back end of the year is going to be pretty special," Burt said.
"We were all mindful of what this young man could bring to us.
"We are not in a position to be impatient with him, but we are thrilled with where he is at right now."