Hawthorn’s historic run of premierships came to an end in 2016. A common thought is that the Hawks overachieved last season, but will a whirlwind trade period launch them back to the top or see them fall away?
Let’s have a look at the list changes made in the off-season.
Additions: Tom Mitchell (Sydney), Jaeger O’Meara (Gold Coast), Ty Vickery (Richmond), Ricky Henderson (Adelaide), Harry Morrison, Mitchell Lewis, Oliver Hanrahan, James Cousins, Conor Nash (draft)
Subtractions: Sam Mitchell (West Coast), Jordan Lewis (Melbourne), Brad Hill (Fremantle), Matthew Spangher, Angus Litherland, Alex Woodward, Zac Webster, Jermaine Miller-Lewis, Lachlan Langford (delisted)
What happened last year?
Two hefty losses in the first six weeks made it a bumpy start to 2016 for the club, and while it’s fanciful to suggest Hawthorn had the umpires to thank for their infamous three-game, three-point winning streak, it’s not fanciful to point out they could have very easily started the year 1-5.
But as the Hawks do, they got rolling once more. 11 wins from their next 12 games had the ‘Fourthorn’ parade in full march, and despite two losses and a very close shave with Collingwood in their last four games, they finished in the top four for the six straight season.
The finals were a different story however, with the club’s attempt at history unceremoniously cut short by a straight sets exit at the hands of Geelong and the Western Bulldogs.
Hawthorn turned the trade period on its head after offloading not one, but two of their ‘Big 3′ midfielders in Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis for next to nothing.
The move presumably freed up considerable cap space for the Hawks, and they used that breathing room to lure star midfielder Tom Mitchell away from the Swans and a disgruntled Jaeger O’Meara away from the Suns.
The Hawks did have to send several draft picks all over the place to lure the two young mids in however, and as such only made two selections in the draft – both in the fifth round. O’Meara and Mitchell both have plenty of upside, but almost none of the club’s players under 23 really jump off the page.
That said, don’t sleep on Jarryd Roughead’s return to the line-up.
What needs to happen in 2017?
As disappointing as their finals exit was, this is a club that got just about everything it possibly could have out of itself in 2016.
While that speaks volumes to the quality of coaching and club culture at the Hawks, it does leave them with little argument to suggest they could have finished higher.
While the Hawks will still be more than competitive this year, turning to the future they do need to start unearthing some quality small defenders.
The play of Shaun Burgoyne, Josh Gibson, Ben Stratton and has been critical to the club’s outstanding success, and while Stratton still has some time left, there aren’t any obvious reinforcements in this department outside of Taylor Duryea.
With a considerably thinner engine room than in previous seasons too, the Hawks will need their second tier of midfielders to step up. Billy Hartung, Will Langford and even delisted Crow Ricky Henderson could be vital to Hawthorn’s quest to stay in the hunt.
There’s a strong feeling in the football world that this year could be the equivalent of Geelong’s 2015 for the Hawks. Their trade period activity certainly suggests Alastair Clarkson had similar thoughts.
Cancelling some victory laps will see them avoid a September holiday, but given they performed at their peak last year and fell well short, it’s hard to see them seriously contending for the flag.