Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has overcome all manner of obstacles in a distinguished coaching career that already features four AFL premierships.
The challenge facing the Hawks mentor and football manager Chris Fagan is unlike any of them, for many reasons.
The raw emotion on the face of Jordan Lewis, who bravely fronted national TV a day after Jarryd Roughead’s latest cancer diagnosis, gave an insight into how much the news has impacted the squad.
Lewis detailed how the pair, best man at each other’s wedding, shared tears at the club over the “extremely serious” recurrence of Roughead’s melanoma.
“No words were needed but the seriousness of it would break anyone down, no matter how strong or fit you are,” Lewis told Fox Footy.
Structures, one-percenters and one-week-at-a-times become meaningless at times like this.
And yet Clarkson must find a way to turn Lewis and his teammates’ focus to football come Friday night, when they face Sydney at the MCG in a rematch of the 2012 and 2014 grand finals.
It is an onerous task.
Clarkson’s former right-hand man Brendon Bolton managed to keep things ticking along in 2014 when the head coach was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
That was a short-term situation; Clarkson returned to the coaches’ box after five games of rest.
Roughead’s will be an ongoing fight, one shared by teammates who – like everyone in the league – speak so highly of the much-loved Victorian.
Hawthorn players dealt without the talented forward on the field during the opening eight rounds because of a knee injury.
Now it is an indefinite absence and for far more serious reasons.
“It’ll be hard,” Lewis said.
“But as harsh as it is, you’ve just got to move on in a way. I think Roughy would want that.
“What has happened, has happened and we’ve just got to beat it.”
Mick Malthouse, who coached 718 matches – a VFL/AFL record, noted it’s up to the club to provide the necessary support.
“In this instance, this is life and death,” Malthouse told radio station SEN.
“The players are going to be affected and that’s when the club people step in and start to do things to ensure that the player group don’t disintegrate.
“(They) rally, stay sound, stay focused.
“The stronger the football club off the ground, the more they can absorb this and get through it.”
Hundreds of AFL players have posted messages of support on Twitter, as have fans from around Australia.
Some Hawthorn supporters have suggested there should be a standing ovation in the second minute of the second quarter on Friday, given Roughead wears the No.2 on his back.
“This is a testament to the football community as a whole, that we do rally behind one other and that’s one of the great things about our sport,” Malthouse said.
“We do put aside the club loyalties.
“There’s so many things that this football club … are going to endure this next 12 months and who knows beyond that.”