Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna says it’s simply a lack of fitness which has kept Karmichael Hunt from taking on AFL premiers Hawthorn this weekend.

Karmichael Hunt’s lack of match fitness is the only reason he’s not lining up for Gold Coast this weekend against AFL premiers Hawthorn.

Hunt was overlooked to take on the Hawks by the Suns’ match committee with young swingman Jack Hutchins getting the nod instead.

The former rugby league star’s absence again raised questions over his future at the Suns with several first-teamers, including Brandon Matera, Jesse Lonergan, Jack Martin and Charlie Dixon, all sidelined through injury.

But coach Guy McKenna says Hunt’s omission is nothing more than a reflection of his fitness levels after an injury-disrupted pre-season.

“We didn’t want to put him in given our midfield and the numbers they’re producing are really good, really solid,” McKenna said.

“To make him a sub doesn’t help him because it’s all about fitness for him.

“At the moment he’s just not at that level. We think another week and then he’s right to go.”

The Suns were given a huge boost during the week with Steven May successfully challenging a rough conduct charge on Tuesday night.

The big defender will be needed against the in-form Hawks, who demolished Fremantle last weekend in an astonishing display.

The addition of skipper Luke Hodge only adds to the challenge facing McKenna’s men.

After winning five of their past six matches at home, McKenna is talking tough before Saturday’s clash, challenging his team to prove themselves against the competition benchmark.

“Mentally and physically we’re in good shape to take on the premiers from last year so let’s take them on,” McKenna said.

“I don’t think we can discount what our group did to Brisbane … we found another gear. We’re probably going to have to find another gear against Hawthorn.

“We’re now ready to take that step and certainly looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday night.”

Hawthorn have only travelled once to play the Suns on the Gold Coast when a team shorn of several stars won in the final round of the Suns’ debut season in 2011.

Last year the Suns gave a good account against the Hawks at the MCG, eventually succumbing to a 26-point defeat, and coach Alastair Clarkson is clearly wary of the rising threat posed by this weekend’s opponents.

“Their whole midfield has come on in leaps and bounds,” Clarkson said.

“There’s a lot to like about the way they’re going about things.”