ESSENDON ruckman Shaun McKernan is determined to prove he still belongs at AFL level with the opportunity to stand up as the Bombers' big man in the wake of Tom Bellchambers' long-term foot injury.
Bellchambers was in a moon boot on Friday at the Bombers' final training session before Saturday's clash with Hawthorn at the MCG.
A stress fracture to his third metatarsal is expected to keep him out for at least two months.
The loss of the ruckman has opened the door again for the former Crow, who was elevated from the rookie list earlier in the season but was used in just one game.
"For me, it creates an opportunity but I'm pretty gutted for Tommy," McKernan said on Friday.
"He's had it pretty hard this year and it would have been great for him to get back in the team.
"But I'm excited to get back out there ... When I got elevated again and then picked, it was just about re-establishing myself and showing everyone I can play and get some continuity back in my career."
McKernan had solid form in the VFL before last week's bye, which prompted his call up to replace Bellchambers.
He acknowledged the "fair gap" between the two competitions but said he felt confident after building the most stable run of form in his career.
"I think I've been pretty lucky getting another chance and coming back home to Melbourne," he said.
"There's been people here I've worked pretty closely with who have helped me a fair bit.
"Some of the things they've helped me put in place have definitely helped.
"But I think for me it's probably the most continuity I've had in my career so I'm definitely excited to get back out there."
Coach James Hird has been under fire for missing two training sessions during last week's bye while he was overseas finishing a business administration course.
It's a situation McKernan said he felt had been "blown up a fair bit" and saw Hird attract some "unnecessary" criticism.
McKernan said his relationship with Hird had been simple since he arrived at the club late last year via the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
"From day one, I remember when I rocked up here he just said to be a competitor and if you do that you'll get picked," he said.
"I find him pretty honest and he tells you how it is, so it's pretty easy."
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said on Friday his players wouldn't back away from their intimidating style of play and would continue to act "close to the line".
But McKernan said the Bombers aren't concerned about their next opponent's "unsociable" brand that last week saw two more Hawks cop fines for striking.
He also said the Bombers believed they could not only still make finals, but also replicate their round two performance to knock off the premiers again.
"Everyone else has written us off but internally we're still pretty confident and excited," he said.
"We're definitely confident we can win tomorrow.
"There's no reason why we can't [beat Hawthorn twice in a season]. Probably everyone would have written us off in round two as well so there's nothing different.
"But we're not just going there just to turn up and get beaten – we're heading there to win and there's no reason we can't."