A FOUR-goal haul in a big win at the MCG was just the tonic Ryan Schoenmakers needed to erase some of the painful memories from the past 12 months.

It's been a long and tough road back to AFL football for the 23-year-old, who returned from a knee reconstruction on Saturday for his first match since round four last season.

"I'm still buzzing actually, it was good fun," Schoenmakers said after the 145-point mauling of the Saints.

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Bit by painstaking bit, Schoenmakers has ticked the boxes to win back his spot with the reigning premiers.

Four games in the VFL for Box Hill convinced Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson he was ready – and the 195cm big man didn't disappoint.

Missing a target with an early kick before slewing a running shot at goal across the face didn't dent his confidence, but reminded him to keep his concentration.

That lesson worked wonders. Shortly after, Schoenmakers marked 35m out.

He went back, calmed himself and coolly slotted the goal, before being swamped by Hawks teammates.

"It's pretty amazing. Obviously it's been a long road back, it's been a long 12 months, and finally getting back out on the 'G and then the boys getting around me like that was a pretty special moment," he said.

"That first (shot at goal) I was probably thinking about the celebration before it happened, I suppose – getting a bit ahead of myself. But once I got the first one away I was pretty comfortable."

Schoenmakers booted his second shortly before quarter-time, before snapping a third in the second term.

He had four early in the third quarter and it could have been an even bigger haul, had it not been for Brian Lake's calf injury forcing him back into defence.

In his Friday press conference, Alastair Clarkson expressed his desire for Schoenmakers' to fulfill a swingman role for the Hawks. On Saturday, he proved he's more than capable.

"I love it up forward yeah, it's good fun," Schoenmakers said.

"Obviously I'm happy to play down back whenever I'm needed as well but obviously everyone likes playing forward and kicking goals and getting involved up there.

"I spent most of my teen years playing footy playing forward, so I feel pretty comfortable up there. I'm happy with all the leading patterns and stuff like that."

For most of his junior career, Schoenmakers played in attack, but he couldn't remember kicking a bigger bag than four since his school days.

"I honestly don't know, but I think it would have been back in high school so I don't think I've kicked this many for a while. So it's a great feeling," he said.

Clarkson praised Schoenmakers' versatility for the Hawks.

"It was great that we had the flexibility to have Schoenmakers in the side," he said.

"He was doing some really good work forward for us and then he was able to go back and cover for Brian Lake when he went off."

Twitter: @TravKing_AFL