HAWTHORN is among the oldest and most experienced teams in the AFL.
Having not had an early selection to their name in back-to-back national drafts, the Hawks have had to be smart and experimental in how they’ve recruited and structured their list.
Fortunately, the club has a strong recent history of doing just that — and with Alastair Clarkson at the helm, has the man to rejig things in order to make the side competitive.
Last season, he moved both James Sicily and Jack Gunston into defensive roles. They were positions each adapted to immediately, becoming strong interceptors behind the ball.
Does he have another trick up his sleeve in 2018? Only time will tell.
But given Hawthorn has an average age of 24.6 years — behind only Adelaide as the oldest list in the competition — who average 74.1 games each — the most of any side — this is a squad that should be competing based on its list profile.
They finished two games outside the top eight last year, but that was after a particularly poor start to the season. Clarkson might have to get creative to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
He’s established himself as one of the game’s best accumulators and there’s no reason why Tom Mitchell can’t win just as much of the footy next year. He claimed the Hawks best and fairest in his first season at the club, averaging 35.8 disposals per game. But he also did plenty of work in an under the pack, averaging 6.5 tackles and 6.3 clearances per match. He’ll be the first Hawk that opposition teams circle in pre-match meetings throughout next year.
It was a pretty frustrating year for Will Langford. Despite playing 20 games, he struggled to convert on the scoreboard playing in a role that mixed midfield time with patches up forward and will rue a host of missed opportunities in front of goal. He still averaged 18.1 disposals per game and worked tirelessly. With a fully fit team, there’s every chance he might be on the fringes of Hawthorn’s best 22. So he’ll have to work for his place in pre-season.
THE RISING STAR
Hawthorn doesn’t have many kids at its disposal, but Ryan Burton is one of the most talented youngsters in the competition. The 20-year-old finished second in Rising Star voting last year following a campaign that yielded an average of 21.3 disposals and 5.7 marks per game. He played mainly down back and was ultra calm in possession. He’s a cool head, particularly for his age, and will be a mainstay in this Hawthorn team for years to come.
IT’S A BIG YEAR FOR …
Hawthorn doesn’t necessarily have too many key forward options ready to go, so the chance is there for Tim O’Brien to make that spot his own in 2018. Now in his sixth season at the club, O’Brien perhaps enjoyed his best campaign to date last year. He played 16 games, kicking 19 goals and demonstrated his good aerial ability inside 50. He’ll most likely have to compete with Ryan Schoenmakers for a position in the team early next year.
B: James Sicily, James Frawley, Ben Stratton
HB: Grant Birchall, Jack Gunston, Ryan Burton
C: Shaun Burgoyne, Tom Mitchell, Isaac Smith
HF: Cyril Rioli, Jarryd Roughead, Ricky Henderson
F: Luke Breust, Tim O’Brien, Paul Puopolo
FOLL: Ben McEvoy, Jaeger O’Meara, Liam Shiels
I/C: Blake Hardwick, Jarman Impey, Kaiden Brand, Daniel Howe
EMG: Will Langford, Ryan Schoenmakers, Taylor Duryea
OTHERS: Jonathon Ceglar, Kurt Heatherley, Mitchell Lewis, Kieran Lovell, Teia Miles, Dylan Moore, Harry Morrison, Jono O’Rourke, Marc Pittonet, Jackson Ross, Brendan Whitecross, James Worpel
ROOKIES: James Cousins, Conor Glass, Ollie Hanrahan, Changkuoth Jiath, Harrison Jones, David Mirra, Conor Nash, Dallas Willsmore