Hawthorn legend Leigh Matthews believes a loss of hope for foreseeable AFL success has led to the club’s struggles in 2017.
Matthews has likened the Hawks’ situation to the Brisbane side he coached in the 2000s, which went from triple-premiers to outside the top eight in two years before being long-time cellar-dwellers.
He said Hawthorn’s 0-4 start to the season, including consecutive thrashings by Gold Coast and Geelong, was a shock after an era of stunning success that delivered four flags.
“You always knew that eras come and go … but no-one would expect that they were going to fall off the cliff,” Matthews told Adelaide radio station FiveAA.
Monday’s loss to the Cats was a case-in-point, when the Hawks came to within 14 points in the third quarter at the MCG before capitulating to go down by 86 points.
“I’m a great believer in the connection between hope and energy,” said Matthews, who won four premierships in a 332-game playing career with the Hawks from 1969-85.
“And when all of a sudden the hope’s gone in the game – they’re used to playing in premierships, now they’re struggling to actually be competitive – your energy levels drop off as well.
“That’s what’s happened to Hawthorn.
“They’ve all of a sudden just lost their confidence. They’ve just lost their belief in themselves and their teammates and probably are starting to question the system that they work under.
“If they were still looking like they were a premiership threat, I think they’d have the hope and they’d have the energy.”
Matthews questioned whether prized off-season recruits Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara would come close to reaching the standards of departed all-time club greats Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis.
In another attack on their prospects, Matthews described the form of captain Jarryd Roughead and some of his fellow Hawks premiership stars this season as resembling “hackers”.
“The names are still there, aren’t they? You know that Mitchell and Lewis aren’t there, and Brad Hill,” he said.
“The Riolis, the Rougheads, the Gunstons, the Breusts – they just are looking like hackers in the last week or two.
“O’Meara and Tom Mitchell might be good players, but what chance do they have of being Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis?”