JONATHAN O'Rourke is more than ready to step up and replace injured Hawk Liam Shiels, according to teammate Shaun Burgoyne.
Shiels was ruled out for up to six weeks with a hairline fracture in his wrist, suffered in Hawthorn's 45-point NAB Challenge win over North Melbourne on Saturday.
Burgoyne said O'Rourke, along with Billy Hartung, Will Langford and Blake Hardwick, had made a strong case to be a permanent member of Hawthorn's side in 2016.
"It's (Shiels' injury) not good news for us. He was one of the young guys we were looking at stepping up again this year," Burgoyne said on Tuesday.
"There's still a few young guys vying for that position as well. We had two or three spots spare from last year's (premiership) team so this is another spot someone's going to try to make their own.
"Those guys are all in the mix. We saw young Blake Hardwick play on the weekend as well. It's just another opportunity for a young guy and it's going to give the match committee something to talk about."
Burgoyne said O'Rourke, now in his second season at the Hawks after being traded from Greater Western Sydney, had gained greater respect from the Hawks' senior players leading into 2016.
The 21-year-old again showed his potential with 20 disposals in the Hawks' win over the Roos.
"He's had a pretty good pre-season. Another year learning the system and learning how his teammates play," Burgoyne said.
"There's a lot more trust from his teammates to him. He's made great improvements this year.
"This pre-season we've seen him play pretty well. On the weekend he definitely put his hand up so we'll have to see whether he plays."
O'Rourke's development was blighted by a series of hamstring concerns in his two seasons at the Giants with the youngster managing just 11 matches at AFL level.
Meanwhile, Burgoyne has not ruled out playing on beyond the end of this season.
The 33-year-old, who is contracted until the end of the 2016, says he will make a call on his future later in the year after all the relevant discussions have taken place.
The four-time premiership star (one at Port Adelaide and three at Hawthorn) is due to play his 300th game in round five.
"When you retire, you're forever retired – I've been told that by a number of retired players," Burgoyne said.
"As long as your body is fit and mentally you can kick along alright I'd like to keep playing.
"But once you get down to the season, who knows what's going to happen? That's another conversation, we'll sit down and have at the end of the year. If it needs to happen earlier then we will."
The Hawks announced youngster Hardwick has accepted a $1000 sanction for striking North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein in Saturday night's match.