The hard-core Gibson was initially cleared of any significant damage to his ribs after a collision into a goal-post and then knee into his back in a marking contest in Hawthorn’s impressive 81-point drubbing of North Melbourne on Saturday.
But, it has emerged that one of the game’s most destructive spoiling and defensive operators could have damaged cartilage between ribs and is now racing the clock to recover in time for his crucial assignment on star Cats forwards Tom Hawkins and James Podsiadly.
A worst case prognosis for Gibson would be around a month out of action before a full recovery and return to his key defensive duties.
Gibson, 29, did not take any further part in the clash with North after half-time because of his ribs trouble at Craigieburn on the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne.
He is clearly ranked among the game’s most elite defensive spoilers as well as crucial interceptions in the Hawks back-half and averaged 16 possessions an outing in his 22 engagements last season.
Gibson is now expected to be carefully monitored ahead of a confrontation with the potentially imposing Cats forward division in possibly the biggest clash of the league’s extended Round 1 on Easter Monday.
The Hawks have already lost crucial defensive link-up expert and stunning kicking exponent Matt Suckling to a season ending knee injury that the classy left-footer suffered in NAB duties a week ago.
Courageous captain and decorated midfield tough nut Luke Hodge will also miss early season action in his recovery from on-going knee problems.
Lake, 31, continues to be troubled with a calf strain and has not played in any of Hawthorn’s last three NAB Cup summer commitments after the dual All-Australian crossed from the Western Bulldogs last October.
Lake was attracted into the Hawks defence strategically to offer crucial big man back-up to the reliable Gibson in battles with powerhouse opposition forward marking and goal-avenue targets.
The Hawks have an especially gruelling opening to the new premiership campaign in probably the harshest fixture run of any genuine flag contender.
Hawthorn starts with the Cats and then head west to confront another serious title candidate West Coast in Perth just six days later.
The early flag favourites then confront Collingwood in another potential blockbuster in Round 3 at the MCG before rounding out their opening seven engagements in confrontations with Fremantle at Launceston, North Melbourne at the MCG, Adelaide on road at AAMI Stadium and then a grand final re-match with Sydney back at the “G”.