JESSE Lonergan heads home to Launceston today. But the 'hosting' Hawks won't be laying out the welcome mat for him or his Gold Coast teammates.
The 20-year-old hails from Beauty Point, just north of Tasmania's 'northern capital', and played his footy with the Launceston Blues before being drafted by the Suns at pick 12 in the 2012 national draft.
Though originally an Essendon supporter after his uncle Sam Lonergan spent time as a Bomber, Lonergan also used to go and regularly watch the Hawks, which play four games annually at Aurora Stadium.
One of four Tasmanians in the Suns' line-up today, alongside former Launceston teammate Kade Kolodjashnij, Henry Schade (North Hobart) and Luke Russell (Burnie Dockers), Lonergan said it was "pretty exciting" to now be involved in an AFL clash on home soil.
"It's good to go home and play in front of family and friends," he told APN. "I'll have to ask the club for about 50-odd tickets to fit them all through the gates.
"I was lucky enough to play last year (for the first time), but I was the sub."
The Suns have endured a torrid start to the season - they're languishing in 17th spot at 1-7 - and they'll get no respite from the Hawks, which are 4-4, and eager to get back ahead of the ledger.
"Against the premiers, it doesn't get any easier," Lonergan said. "Hopefully we can surprise them."
The solidly built Lonergan, who has played four games this season for a total of 17, has been easing into a new role in defence following the club's disastrous run of injury.
"Coming through the AFL system you quickly realise you can't just be a midfielder or forward, you've got to be able to play anywhere," he said.
"It's new to me playing defence, but it's a great opportunity, a great learning experience.
"My second game in defence I played on (Adelaide goalsneak) Eddie Betts... I think he kicked five (goals) on me. It was a tough day but hopefully that will hold me in good stead for the future."
The immediate future will see Lonergan today take either Luke Breust, Paul Puopolo or Cyril Rioli - all tough challenges.
"No matter who I get I'll have my hands full," he admitted.
Though coming off a career-high 20 disposals in the loss to Collingwood last week, Lonergan says he's "still got a long way to go to cement my spot in that defensive line-up".
"Especially when we get all the boys back from injury," he said. "I'm just trying to work as hard as I can, working hard with (defensive coach) Dean Solomon."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.