Jarryd Roughead's much-anticipated return has been overshadowed by Hawthorn's desperate late surge to snatch a four-point victory over Geelong in their AFL pre-season clash.
In Launceston on Friday night, a third-quarter resurgence by the Cats meant the Hawks had to scramble for their 0.15.8 (98) to 1.13.7 (94) win, which was sealed with a goal after the siren from Kade Stewart.
By halftime, the outlook was bleak for Geelong who had lost two key players to injury as the Hawks dominated possession and ran away with a 41-point lead.
But after the break, the Cats embarked on an impressive comeback, booting eight unanswered goals to take the lead.
Three of the goals came from recruit Aaron Black who finished with four on debut for Geelong.
After spending most of 2016 keeping the bench warm for North Melbourne, Black was a standout.
Four-time premiership winner Roughead was sharp for the Hawks, finishing with a goal and 14 disposals, while lining up against 2016 Brownlow Medallist Patrick Dangerfield in the first quarter for the centre bounce in a sign of strength.
The 29-year-old had a melanoma removed from his lip in 2015 then suffered a recurrence in 2016, ending his season, but was given the all-clear by doctors in December and had since been named Hawthorn captain.
He found support on Friday from Jaeger O'Meara, who made his first appearance since late 2014, overcoming a horror stretch of injuries, playing the first half and notching up 12 disposals.
With the Hawks well ahead, O'Meara was benched for the second half, possibly when he was needed the most.
Cameron Guthrie was the Cats' first casualty, straight to the rooms with a suspected hamstring complaint.
Midway through the second term, defender Lachie Henderson left the field.
Neither player returned to the ground in a stiff pre-season blow for the Cats.
After the game, Roughead was keen to downplay the significance of his return.
"I suppose it's good but I haven't put this one as the focus. It is still a bit of a building block - round one is what I'm building towards," he told reporters.
But the towering key forward admitted he enjoyed himself being back in the contest.
"I haven't played for 500 odd days or so. Of course I am going to have fun," he said.
"Towards the end, I was cooked but I guess you're going to get that when you've had a bit of time off."
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson offered only tempered praise of his star's return.
"He was a bit scratchy in the second half, like a lot of our guys were," Clarkson said.