AS JARRYD Roughead prepares for his 250th game, the Hawthorn skipper says he has had to "learn on the fly" in his first season as leader.

Roughead missed all of 2016 after dealing with a PCL reconstruction in a knee and then a return of melanoma.

Having dealt with the cancer, the forward returned this season to lead a side that was bundled out at the semi-finals stage last year by the Western Bulldogs, and without traded champions Sam Mitchell (West Coast) and Jordan Lewis (Melbourne).

The Hawks added a couple of boom recruits in Tom Mitchell (Sydney) and Jaeger O'Meara (Gold Coast) but struggled early in the season, copping successive 86-point beltings at the hands of the Suns and Geelong in the first month of the season to begin 0-4.

Since then, they have performed a remarkable recovery to sit 12th and within reach of an eighth-straight finals berth, but Roughead acknowledged he had doubts after taking over the captaincy from Luke Hodge.

"I heard (Swans skipper) Josh Kennedy say last week that you kind of look at yourself and ask the question if it's your fault," Roughead said at Waverley on Tuesday morning.

"You do go through those moments but at the end of the day, you understand it's a totally different side to what I've known in the past and what everyone else has.

"So when you get to these situations, you've just got to try and get through as best as you can because you learn on the fly, as it's my first year as captain."

Reaching a milestone might have been a time for reflection, especially considering the magnitude of what Roughead has endured, but his focus remained on finishing the season well.

"I haven't really thought about it (250 matches) too much. At the start of the year when I was coming back, I didn't really think about this. It was all about trying to play footy again," he said.

"Now that we're here, it'll be good to look back on and say, 'That was a good milestone', but really, you don't look back on it too much while you're playing." 

The 30-year-old has dealt with serious injuries, including a ruptured Achilles tendon midway through 2011 that wiped out the rest of that season. 

He was forced to watch on as Hawthorn lost an agonising preliminary final to Collingwood but said that sort of concern was nothing compared to dealing with cancer. 

Jarryd Roughead at the media conference celebrating his 250th AFL match. Picture: AFL Photos

"The injuries you understand happen with footy, but with what happened last year, your perspective changes a fair bit and you understand footy's not everything," Roughead said. 

"You think it is after you grow up, you move from home at 17 and move to here and you've been here for 12 years, but after what you go through last year, you understand that (it's not)."

That experience has changed the way he approaches game day.

"A lot of people would know that you have a little bit of OCD and your routine's a little bit different, but it's probably relaxed since I've come back," Roughead said.

Not that his experiences have stopped him from enforcing high standards, as he again will do against Richmond on Sunday at the MCG.

"You still hold high expectations of the group. There's times where you get frustrated with the way that we're playing because for so long we've been good at certain things," Roughead said.

"Then obviously when we drop off in those areas, you get a little bit frustrated because you've tried to ingrain it in those guys for the three or four years they've been here. It's just a matter of education and making sure they get it."