THE INTENSE criticism leveled at Hawthorn this year is largely warranted, Hawks leadership group member Jack Gunston says.

Hawthorn's underwhelming start to 2017 took a turn for the worse last week when it scored a club-worst 0.3 in the opening half of last week's 51-point defeat to Port Adelaide.

That loss saw the Hawks slip to a 4-7 win-loss record. Now they face Gold Coast, a side that handed the Hawks an 86-point hiding in round three.

"There are patches of footy that we've deserved to be criticised," Gunston told

"We've played some poor footy at times and we've played some exciting footy at times. Each team gets criticised and a pat on the back when they do good things, so it's nothing new.

"It's probably the first time it's come Hawthorn's way in a few years, but that's no stress on the footy club at all … you won't see too many guys buying into the outside criticism."

Gunston is keen for Hawthorn to not only respond this weekend to the big Suns defeat, but also the last-start disappointment against the Power.

"We had a poor loss and you look back and (Gold Coast) embarrassed us up there," he said.

"We're playing some okay footy in patches and it will just be good to get on the MCG and play a Gold Coast team playing some good footy – it's definitely going to be a good challenge.

"We were playing some good footy (leading into the Port Adelaide game) and finally stringing those quarters together and playing consistent, predictable footy for everyone out there.

"We just didn't show up in the first quarter and that's where the game really hurt us (but) we kept fighting and we won the second half, so there were some little positives that can come out of last week."

Gunston has been less prolific on the scoreboard this season – kicking 10 goals in 11 games, after slotting at least 51 in each of the past three years – as he adapts to a slightly different role further afield.

Jarryd Roughead's return, Ty Vickery's arrival and the Hawks' desire to get games into promising pair James Sicily and Tim O'Brien has forced Alastair Clarkson's hand with Gunston.

"Sometimes if you're stuck in the forward line, the ball's not coming down, so you want to get up there and get a touch," Gunston said. 

"That's been my philosophy through my whole footy career so far – it's being versatile and being able to get to the wing.

"I don't feel like I need to be down there all the time (with the other forward options) and it's good to be able to get up on the wing. I do miss kicking a few goals every now and then, but it's good to be able to mix up the roles."

Gunston's role tweak suits his ambition to become a complete player amid his first year in Hawthorn's leadership group.

He baulked at a question about being a potential future captain, especially with Roughead in his first year in the job, but is enjoying the challenge of being an official leader.

"I've got plenty of years to be learning and it's great to still have Hodgey (Luke Hodge) here, who I can tap into and not annoy Rough all the time, because he's obviously busy with the captaincy," Gunston said.

"I would never rule it out (being captain). 

"But right now and for the next couple of years, it's definitely just trying to be involved in the leadership group and helping the guys at Box Hill … it's just great to be part of the group."