Hawthorn have learnt a lesson from their poor defence of their 2008 AFL flag, coach Alastair Clarkson says.

AFL premiers Hawthorn begin life without star forward Lance “Buddy” Franklin on Thursday as they open their NAB Challenge campaign against the Brisbane Lions.

Coach Alastair Clarkson says finding someone to kick 60 goals like Sydney’s recruit Franklin did for Hawthorn in 2013 will be a part of the Hawks’ journey of discovery.

“We need to find out about ourselves a little bit over the next six or eight weeks,” Clarkson told reporters on Wednesday.

“How is our forward line going to structure up without Bud? Who’s going to replace him?

“Is it a taller player? Is it a smaller type?”

The Hawks have recruited former St Kilda ruckman Ben McEvoy for retired premiership big man Max Bailey, and they’ll also face having to change their defensive set-up with the retirement of Brent Guerra.

“The same goes with Brent Guerra going out of our back end,” Clarkson said.

“Is that Taylor Duryea? Is it Matt Suckling?

“It’s not just an easy replacement.”

Alex Woodward and Matt Suckling are set for their comeback games after suffering knee injuries during the 2013 pre-season and the Hawks have also named 177cm teenager Billy Hartung, last year’s No.24 draft pick.

Dual premiership coach Clarkson says he can seen no signs of a premiership hangover similar to that which clipped the Hawks’ wings in 2009, when the defending premiers missed the top eight.

“You learn a stack. In hindsight we made plenty of errors as a coaching group, as a club and as individual players having gone through that for the first time,” Clarkson said.

“We had 15 post-season surgeries after the 2008 grand final. Even that in itself is one example of just how difficult it is to prepare properly for the following season.

“We have the benefit of hindsight now to be able to change our program a little bit.

“We just had so many players who didn’t have perfect preparations. That makes it look like they’re tardy in their approach but they just didn’t have really good pre-seasons because so many of them had surgeries.

“That’s not the sole reason.”

Clarkson says the NAB Challenge, which involves each club playing two matches over an 18-day period, is all about getting game time into his players ahead of their March 22 round-one clash with the Lions.