VETERAN Hawk Ben McEvoy doesn't typically give much away with his emotions – and he did a pretty good job of keeping it that way in round 22 last year.

Yet bubbling under the surface on that evening against Gold Coast were an unusually high number of jangling nerves.

McEvoy, who turns 31 in July, was predominantly a ruckman for his previous 204 AFL games but only days earlier was blindsided by one of coach Alastair Clarkson's brainwaves.

Brisbane was sniffing around about fellow Hawthorn big man Jon Ceglar, who was playing well enough to suggest he was capable of being a No.1 ruckman.

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Clarkson, football boss Graham Wright and co. wanted to retain both of them – and eventually lost third-stringer Marc Pittonet to Carlton – but needed to come up with a way to make the situation work.

McEvoy, the defender was born.

"It was pretty much out of left field. It was a few days before the second-last round of last year; the Gold Coast game, Roughy's (Jarryd Roughead) last game," McEvoy told AFL.com.au.

"There was nigh on no preparation – I think one training session – and it was just like, 'We'll go out and play'.

"So, I'll be honest: I was absolutely packing my dacks going out to play that game, thinking, 'Wow, I could look like an idiot on national TV'.

"But a couple of minutes in, you get involved in some contests and then your footy instincts take over and I found it really enjoyable."

The next week McEvoy was responsible for All-Australian forward Jack Darling, and he kept the big Eagle to two goals in an upset Hawks victory.

They convinced Ceglar to re-sign for three more years and also fast-tracked a contract trigger for 2021 for McEvoy, who then spent the entire pre-season training in the backline.

An experiment this was not, or at least not once McEvoy proved himself competent at centre half-back.

He also admits he probably wouldn't have many seasons left if he continued to play the physically tougher ruck role, and was happy to put the team first.

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"(The positional move) was strange and got plenty of question marks thrown at it but the way I've played my footy is with that defensive sort of mindset," McEvoy said.

"From when I was 12 years old, I had that natural ability to read the play from behind the ball, whereas your more naturally talented forwards are able to read it from the front of the ball. I was never quite as good as that.

"The way the game's gone, too, with intercept marking being so important – that's always been a strength of mine.

"There were some really positive reasons as to why 'Clarko' thought of it and we tried it but that didn't stop me s*****g myself going into the first game – and every time I've done it since, to be honest."

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McEvoy is now relishing the challenge of a new position in his 13th season in the AFL, while being realistic enough to know there are tougher times ahead than he's experienced so far.

"A big lump of a bloke like me; I can't keep up with most of them (forwards)," he said.

"So, I'm relying on two things: pressure from my teammates, and me being smart enough and reacting quickly enough to get where I need to be."