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2017 season preview: Hawthorn Hawks

Stirling Coates Roar Guru

By Stirling Coates, Stirling Coates is a Roar Guru


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    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.

    Click here to read the rest of Stirling’s previews.

    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.

    What’s changed?
    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.

    The verdict
    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.

    Prediction: eighth

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • March 16th 2017 @ 8:35am
      Birdman said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Good read Stirling, but I don’t think you’ve given enough weight to Roughead’s absence in 2016 – arguably their most important and versatile player with capability in the forward line, ruck and midfield. Could have been a different story with him on board in finals esp. against Geelong.

      Clearly the major problem with a lack of contested possession from Lewis and Mitchell has in part been addressed but I think another gun mid (Rockliff will do) and centre half back (Trengove looks ideal) to continue the ‘restump’.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2017 @ 7:39pm
        hairy fat man said | March 16th 2017 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

        As good as Roughead is, it seems unlikely that he will recapture his best form after a whole year out of the game.

        • March 16th 2017 @ 8:29pm
          Birdman said | March 16th 2017 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

          the pre-season suggests that you’re likely to be wrong.

          • Roar Guru

            March 16th 2017 @ 9:29pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | March 16th 2017 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

            It was very positive signs, although the preseason scratchies have a much lower level of demand on players energy. Also whether the bounce effect players coming back from a long layoff tend to get immediately after they return that then dissipates as each week rolls on has some part too.

      • Roar Guru

        March 16th 2017 @ 9:23pm
        Stirling Coates said | March 16th 2017 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

        I certainly agree that Jarryd Roughead has the potential to be the ‘recruit’ of the season for Hawthorn, but I don’t necessarily agree that what he adds to the team is what they were missing last season.

        Jack Gunston and James Sicily put 81 goals on the board in the tall forward department, and what’s always made Hawthorn’s forward line lethal is the fact they’ve got Luke Breust, Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo – a trio that combined for 126 goals – to pick up the crumbs. Even Jonathon Ceglar and Ben McEvoy combined for 25 majors – a more than healthy contribution from the ruck department. Apart from his leadership, it looks like Hawthorn got what they’d normally get from Roughead anyway.

        The Hawks slipped from first to 12th in disposals per game in 2016, and because they utilise a very open, uncontested style of football (that works so well because their disposal efficiency is beyond world class), they were a bit easier to move the ball on. They gave up four more inside 50s a game compared to 2015, and were two goals a game worse off defensively. That to me is what saw them fall short in 2016, and as good as a player Jarryd Roughead is, none of those are statistical areas he contributes to.

        • March 17th 2017 @ 9:05pm
          Birdman said | March 17th 2017 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

          Sorry Stiling but Clarko had to send key forwards like Gunston, Sicily and O’Brien back last year to assist with defensive and transitional duties which was a major reason why scores for suffered in Roughie’s absence.

          Clarko found another way to stay competitive but make no mistake Roughie was the biggest deficit in 2016.

    • Roar Guru

      March 16th 2017 @ 11:33am
      TomC said | March 16th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      It’s hard enough to figure out where Hawthorn really sat in the mix in 2016, let alone to figure out where they’ll finish this season.

      I do agree with Birdman above that Roughead’s return will be a bigger factor than perhaps people realise. I’d always assumed that his medical problems would have a long term impact on him but there’s no sign of that from the Community Series.

      To me, Hawthorn’s first 18 looks very good indeed, but it falls away a bit after that. So with a decent chunk of luck and a few others falling over I don’t think another premiership is out of the question, but more likely they’ll find themselves around the bottom half of the eight.

    • March 16th 2017 @ 11:01pm
      markD said | March 16th 2017 @ 11:01pm | ! Report

      thanks for your piece though the fact is it overlooked that Roughy provides such a presence and big body through the middle as much as he leads the attack. We missed that so much last year.

      Hopefully, Burton, Stewart and Langford perform well enough to keep their places but the worry for me is not small defenders but talls at the back. If luck is against us, I could see us lining up with Schoey and Scicily as backmen!!

      Assuming luck is equal and injuries no greater than others, I’d say a slip in the ladder to about 6th with a plan to try and snare a couple of free agents next year to go again.

      Good luck all.

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