Hawthorn small forward Cyril Rioli says skipper Luke Hodge will feel like he owes the team following his costly three-game suspension.
Hodge will return for the Hawks’ clash with Gold Coast in Tasmania on Saturday afternoon having sat out two losses from their last three games.
Last round the defending champions were pipped by four points by Sydney, while they also fell to Greater Western Sydney for the first time.
Rioli said the side had missed their leader.
“We need our general back there so it will be good to have Hodgey back in the team,” Rioli said.
“I think he will feel like he owes the team; sitting on the sidelines and us going down a few games would make him pretty hungry so we’re excited for him to come back.”
Rioli said slow starts were costing the team in their AFL premiership defence.
The Hawks trailed Sydney by 32 points early and despite a strong fight-back his team fell short.
“Our starts haven’t been great and we’ve had to dig deep and find something during the game to come back and we end up losing the game,” Rioli said.
“It’s about mind-set and going out there and giving all you’ve got.”
He said his team, who are now four and four to open the season, was still hungry for success, but other teams were equally so.
The livewire forward had the chance to put his side ahead in the final minute against Sydney but fumbled the ball in an open goal.
“I’ve watched it once and I wasn’t too happy but I don’t want to think about it too much and just want to move on,” he said.
Rioli was speaking following an announcement that Epic Pharmacy would donate $1 million over the next five years to the club’s indigenous program.
Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne will take on roles within the program as mentors while the Hawks will also tighten their links with the Big River Hawks in Katherine in the Northern Territory.