Premiership hero Sam Mitchell is playing a pivotal role as Hawthorn attempts to cover the loss of injured Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell this AFL season.
Mitchell has imparted his vast knowledge to the young onballers over summer on his return to the Hawks as midfield coach, after helping to master-mind West Coast's premiership last year.
New Hawks captain Ben Stratton said the five-times best and fairest winner and four-time premiership midfielder is grooming James Cousins and James Worpel to cover for Mitchell, who is sidelined for the season after breaking a leg in a training mishap.
"Sam has done such a good job with the young midfielders. You can see what's rubbing off on the younger players from him. That has been pretty cool to watch," Stratton told reporters on Friday.
"To the footy world, it's a big loss. And it is to our midfield too, but it also creates a gap for other guys to come through.
"Sometimes at a strong club, you've got to wait your turn as a young kid and this gap has allowed others, like Cousins and Worps, who are almost forced to step up."
Cousins, 21, played four senior games early last season before being sidelined with a nagging adductor muscle injury.
He returned in time to be an important contributor with VFL premiers, the Box Hill Hawks.
Worpel, 20, played 11 games in 2018, finishing the season strongly to suggest he can also be a regular member of the Hawks' rejigged midfield group.
And the Hawks are expecting even more improvement from Jaeger O'Meara who had career-high stats last year as an able deputy to Mitchell.
"He played most of last year, but he was probably unsure how his body would handle it and now he has gone to another level. So that's pretty exciting to watch him go about it," Stratton said.
It's hoped Tom Scully will further bolster the midfield ranks during the season as the former Giant steadily increases his training loads after an ankle injury.
Defender Grant Birchall, sidelined for the past two seasons by knee problems, is also on the comeback trail.