Hawthorn swingman Jack Gunston has warned against writing off his side in season 2019, claiming the year is "far from over," despite sitting two games outside of the top eight.
The Hawks improved to a record of 6-9 last Friday night with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Collingwood at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, taking them from 15th to 13th on the ladder.
While 24 premiership points after 16 rounds might be the club's lowest haul since 2006, Gunston believes the evenness of the competition gives his side enormous confidence as they prepare to tackle the final third of the season and make a run at an unlikely finals appearance.
"It's always hard to know if you're in finals contention or not because the competition is so tight and even," Gunston told ESPN. "We've really seen this over the last couple of years - you see top teams losing to bottom teams and upsets happening all of the time. It's a funny game footy and anything can happen."
To highlight just how open the competition has been this year, teams placed 17th on the ladder in any given week have actually won more games than the teams sitting second. Not only that, but in the past two weeks we've seen nine of the 18 favourites beaten.
It's that unpredictability which has Gunston still optimistic about the Hawks' finals chances.
"We know that we're really not too far away," Gunston said. "If we bring the effort and intensity, we can play some quality football. There's still seven weeks to go, so the season is far from over and there's certainly a lot of belief amongst the group right now."
The win over Collingwood ended a four-game losing skid for the Hawks and Gunston said it was nice to finally get some reward after what had been a solid patch of form.
"We've had some really good patches of footy, but in the end we've let a lot of games slip," Gunston told ESPN. "I think the most important thing is we haven't been blown away in any of those games - we've lost a fair few by smaller margins.
"Of course, it's always disappointing to lose, but we've been right in games and that gives us confidence. For us, it's just a matter of learning how to win them."
Hawthorn face the inconsistent Fremantle in Launceston on Saturday afternoon before returning to the MCG for a blockbuster clash against ladder-leaders Geelong.