Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says rookie ruckman Ned Reeves has provided a glimmer of hope for the battling AFL club following their 37-point thumping from Gold Coast at the SCG.
In just his second match, Reeves - the Hawks' tallest-ever player at 211cm - kicked his first career goal and collected a game-high 35 hit-outs in a rare highlight for a team slumping to a fifth straight loss on Saturday night.
The 22-year-old has provided a welcome shot in the arm for a once mighty Hawks outfit (2-9 record) which now sit second last after nine losses in 10 games.
While Clarkson said Hawthorn's midfield "lowered our colours" against the Suns, he believed Reeves had already shown he could be a vital foil for captain, fellow ruckman Ben McEvoy, and a key to rebuilding Hawks' future.
"He's still got a lot of learning in terms of the ruck craft but we are excited by what he has been able to bring," he said of Reeves.
"It's also about taking some of the load off McEvoy who has been so lion-hearted for us in that role for a long period of time."
We are hoping they can share that ruck responsibility with big Macca as his tutor..(and) help Ned grow into the ruckman we think he can be but that is going to take a period of time."
Hawthorn led overall hit-outs 56-29 but the Suns won clearances 42-35 as the Hawks struggled without Kyle Hartigan (suspension) and Jaeger O'Meara (concussion).
"Ned got his hands on the ball a lot through the course of the game, he had more hit outs than any other player on the ground," Clarkson said.
"But we weren't able to convert that into the clearances that we would have liked. That's a work in progress.
"Without O'Meara there, that probably hurt us and the Gold Coast's midfield is quite strong."
We probably lowered our colours in the middle of the ground ...but we are learning to get some synergy with Ned in there, but that will take a bit of time over the course of the next few weeks.
"Clarkson was still shaking his head over Hawthorn's lacklustre start at the SCG in which Gold Coast kicked the first four goals to lead 28-0 before his side responded.
The Hawks mentor also found their lowly position on the ladder hard to fathom, but was confident his young side would turn it around - eventually.
"We have some work to do. We know where we are at as a footy club," he said.
"We feel like we are better than two wins and nine losses but, having said that, the scoreboard in a lot of ways doesn't lie either.
"We know our depth has been tested throughout the course of the year but we believe at some stage it will pay dividends for us because of the exposure to younger players.
"But gelling together is tough at this present time."