Can the Hawks fly again in 2018?

Stuart McKenzie Roar Rookie

By Stuart McKenzie, Stuart McKenzie is a Roar Rookie


72 Have your say

    Hawthorn are perhaps the hardest side to get a read on for season 2018.

    With a perceived ageing list and the ongoing loss of stars, most pundits expect a lowly finish for the Hawks and betting markets have ten teams more highly fancied.

    However, you shouldn’t be so quick to write them off for 2018.

    In 2017, Hawthorn won 10.5 games, a modest return. What’s dismissed though is the large number of serious injuries suffered in 2017, with minimal contributions from Jaeger O’Meara, Cyril Rioli, Grant Birchall, James Frawley, Paul Puopolo and Ben Stratton.

    Those six players played 49 of a possible 132 games – that’s 73 games missed, an average of over 12 games per player. It’s doubtful that any team would have been competitive with such an immense loss of games from such significant players.

    The Hawks’ poor start to the season, coupled with serious injuries to key players, saw the club move from aiming to contend for a flag to regenerating the playing group. The injuries proved a blessing in disguise.

    Blake Hardwick, James Sicily and Ryan Burton’s statistics for the second half of the season showed that they were among the best backmen in the competition.

    Tim O’Brien progressed as a genuine ruck-forward and youngsters Connor Glass, Teia Miles, Harry Morrison, Kurt Heatherley, Dallas Willsmore and James Cousins gained experience at senior level. Keen fans are confident that one or two those players will develop into genuine senior footballers.

    Jack Gunston proved a highly effective defender, while Will Langford and Taylor Duryea showed they could play forward.

    So, where are those injured players?

    O’Meara and Puopolo played the final two games of 2017, Rioli and Frawley were ready to go by season’s end, and Stratton will be right for the start of pre-season training. As for Birchall, he is recovering from a serious knee injury and is expected to have a delayed start to pre-season.

    Ever so quietly, Alastair Clarkson has overseen a transformation of his list. With the return of injured players and the development of youngsters, here’s a first pass at the best 22 for season 2018.

    B: Hardwick Frawley Sicily
    HB: Birchall Brand Burton
    C: Smith O’meara Hartung
    HF: Rioli Gunston Impey
    F: Puopolo Roughead Breust
    R: McEvoy Howe Mitchell
    I/C: Burgoyne, Shiels, O’Brien, Stratton

    Of that best 22, only 13 players remain from the 2015 premiership team two seasons ago, giving a mix of youth and experience. It also offers Clarkson real flexibility, with James Sicily, Ryan Burton, Jarman Impey, Jack Gunston, Jarryd Roughead, Shaun Burgoyne and Tim O’Brien capable in multiple positions.

    But it’s in defence where Hawthorn look especially strong.

    Sicily and Burton both mark the ball, Hardwick has a kicking efficiency among the highest in the competition, and Birchall, Sicily and Burton are high possession, rebounding defenders with exceptional kicking skills.

    Frawley is an established, dependable key defender and the athletic Kaiden Brand was a big improver in 2017.

    It’s an appealing back six, with real intercept and rebound ability.

    Both the Bulldogs of 2016 and the Tigers of 2017 highlighted the value of high-intensity forward pressure. This has always been a feature of Clarkson’s teams and Rioli, Impey, Puopolo and Luke Breust are a quartet of small forwards the equal of any in the competition.

    Supported by Roughead and the roaming Gunston, this is a seriously dangerous forward line.

    Since 2015, the Hawks have experienced an unprecedented loss of players, many champions. Whether they can be adequately replaced is a key question in assessing the club’s prospects.

    While it’s early days the replacements appear to be close to the mark.

    Out In
    Sam Mitchell Tom Mitchell
    Jordan Lewis Jaeger O’Meara
    Brian Lake Kaiden Brand
    Luke Hodge Ryan Burton
    Josh Gibson James Sicily
    David Hale Tim O’Brien
    Matt Suckling Blake Hardwick
    Brad Hill Billy Hartung

    Mitchell and O’Meara are ready-made replacements for Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis. Each of the youngsters – Brand, Burton, Sicily, O’Brien, Hardwick and Hartung – have careers to date that compare well with Lake, Hodge, Gibson, Hale and Suckling at the same stage.

    And there’s the Clarkson factor. It’s easy to think that with four premierships in 12 years, it’s all been smooth sailing for the coach, but as the graphic below shows, that’s clearly not been the case.

    With four of his 12 years having been outside the top eight (and 2010 was a near fifth after a horror 1-6 start to the season), this is not unfamiliar territory. No doubt Clarkson will spend the summer scheming for the coming season and what he produces next year will be a fascinating side story.

    Yes, there are some big unanswered questions: can Kaiden Brand hold down a key defensive post? Can Daniel Howe build on an excellent second half of 2017 to become the big-bodied midfielder Hawthorn need? Can Tim O’Brien develop the required consistency? Can Ryan Burton, James Sicily and Blake Hardwick sustain the excellence of season 2017? Can Shaun Burgoyne play quality footy as a 35-year-old? Will James Birchall recover from his serious knee injury?

    If the Hawks get affirmative answers to most of these questions and can avoid the injury curse, they are poised to rise again for what would surely be Clarkson’s finest hour.

    New South Wales have won the 2018 State of Origin series with an 18-14 win in an absolutely outstanding Game 2 at ANZ Stadium. See how the action unfolded with our NSW vs QLD Origin 2 scores, highlights and blog.

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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • November 1st 2017 @ 5:22am
      DeanM said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:22am | ! Report

      Hartung was delisted and I think it was the correct decision. Cannot win his own ball, cannot tackle and is a poor decision maker with poor disposal under pressure. His elite running will be missed however.

    • November 1st 2017 @ 7:54am
      Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      Simple answer to your article title is…no. Hawthorn are a year or so ahead of Geelong and both are paying the price for short sighted strategies – years in the wilderness for both clubs now ahead. The defining killer blow for Hawthorn was the horrendous Mitchell, Lewis, O’Meara/Vickery trade….Clarkson got too big for his boots and ripped the soul out of the club that will take decades to repair. Geelong will soon follow after Scott sacked all the old players including horrendous treatment of Stevie J just announced, only to then recruit a 34 year old. Hawthorn and Geelong destined for a decade in the widerness.

      • November 1st 2017 @ 8:29am
        The whole truth said | November 1st 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        The truth is Harry, that Hawthorn, and Geelong, do it better than any other teams in the league. A decade of success for each! They’re not going to let go without a fight, believe me ‘Half Truth’. The Hawks have plenty of class to return next year as reported by Stuart, effectively new players. O’Meara to keep building. Look out! Vickery might even kick goals if this side gets up and running. Will finish above the Bummers!

        • November 1st 2017 @ 10:55am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Geelong have achieved what since 2011? For all they have thrown out for Dangerfield, for their horrible treatment of the wonderful servants of their club like Stevie J, Jimmy B, Chapman….since 2011 what silverware have they added? Name 5-10 young players who are good enough to be the next generation?
          As for Hawthorn, if you are hanging your hopes on Vickery you are in real trouble. O’Meara can’t get on the park, Mitchell is a one trick pony, Burton is the only talent unearthed recently and Burgoyne is probably done. Plus they lose the leadership of Hodge…and Roughy isn’t the player he was. The Hawks pulled off perhaps a miracle with the threepeat but they will now pay the price for several awful years and the inevitable move away from the club by Clarkson….probably to Collingwood after the Pies fail the next two years.

          • November 1st 2017 @ 11:22am
            Don Freo said | November 1st 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

            Harry, what do you think they threw out for Dangerfield?

            • November 1st 2017 @ 3:27pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

              They threw out any plan to draft young players of calibre in….everything is based on capitalising on a flag while Danger is in his prime. It has failed and he will never get that flag until he leaves Geelong now. They may finish 8-10 next year and then fall away drastically…

            • November 1st 2017 @ 4:41pm
              Hungry Jack said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

              Daniel Gore, lol. Since been delisted.

          • Roar Guru

            November 1st 2017 @ 11:24am
            Cat said | November 1st 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

            Harry what has Essendon done since 2000 besides embarrass themselves?

            • Roar Guru

              November 1st 2017 @ 12:08pm
              Col from Brissie said | November 1st 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

              And the AFL Cat.

            • November 1st 2017 @ 12:19pm
              Deir-ba-zor said | November 1st 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

              They’ve turned their entire supporter base into insufferable bigheads.

            • Roar Rookie

              November 1st 2017 @ 12:32pm
              Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | November 1st 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

              Essendon are the epitome of the insular pigheadedness of the old guard VFL for whom their reputation was based entirely on premiership success, and no attempts made to create culture or long-term club fabric. The only thing with any residual staying power at Windy Hill is that sprung floor that Adam Cooney fell in love with in their training facility.

              Never mind the long-term health of the game or the reputation, no, what’s important is that Essendon be seen to be entitled to break the rules and treat their players as lab rats because frankly what the country and football needs more than anything else is a 17th premiership at Windy Hill and never mind the cost or consequences

              This kind of insufferable born-to-rule mentality was borne out of a club that has the biggest insecurity and thumb sucking complex apart from Adelaide – you can see this in Essendon fans bemoaning the AFL as conspiring against them to sabotage the reign of King James, when Ockham’s razor suggests that the explanation of an egotistical rookie coach gulled into letting a mad scientist loose in the ranks of the players under his charge is both eminently plausible and believable. The self-delusion and chagrin emanating from Essendon is as badly misdirected as a Jobe Watson clearance – not only was it aimed at the wrong target, but it rebounded spectacularly to the lasting humiliation of a once proud club.

              Essendon clearly learned nothing from this saga given that they’re already got their strut back on – I eagerly look forward to underachievement of this current draft crop and subsequent stinky waft of desperation and despair coming from the heaving muck of bombers fans in coming years

              • November 1st 2017 @ 3:29pm
                Birdman said | November 1st 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                very nicely put indeed Lord D.

              • November 1st 2017 @ 4:37pm
                Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

                The simple truth is Essendon know what the competition is about and yes we throw all our effort into flags. Melbourne Football Club treat the competition as a spectator sport…you just spectate while the Bombers rack up flags, what is it….1964? That speaks for itself.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 1st 2017 @ 4:45pm
                Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

                Precisely my point. I couldn’t give a fig if the mighty Fuchsias don’t win the flag each season, for me the grandeur of that glorious G in the winter afternoon sun as the MCC New Model Army play entertaining and classy football is reward enough in itself.

                Meanwhile you’re here grasping to tattered old flags and desperately trying to forget you haven’t won a finals match of any description in well over 10 years. We at the MCC run our own race, Essendon run a race with all the insecurity of a man looking over his shoulder at those behind him, and the despondency of someone knowing he’ll never catch the front runners, no matter how many amino acids he chooses to shoot up his arm

              • November 1st 2017 @ 5:12pm
                Peter the Scribe said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

                Geez lord you’re out of your league here! The demons get excited that they just might play one final one decade!

              • November 3rd 2017 @ 12:06pm
                Thatsashame said | November 3rd 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

                Lord your ignorance is staggering. The bombers have endured more than any club ever, self inflicted as it was. To say they’ve learned nothing and walk around with arrogance is pure rubbish. They have put their heads down buns up and every person is working hard to make them the successful club they used to be. If you can’t see they are clearly on the right track, with everyone playing their part then you need to watch more footy!

              • November 1st 2017 @ 7:45pm
                Stephen said | November 1st 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

                Lord D,

                Your literature is most impressive. You are however a little prone to sweeping generalizations. You may well be surprised at the state of remorse and regret experienced by many within the bosom of the EFC. And perhaps that should be displayed more publicly – I grant you. But to state the club ‘clearly learned nothing from this saga..’ is simply untrue sir.

              • November 2nd 2017 @ 10:26am
                Harsh Truth Harry said | November 2nd 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                No wonder you are not passionate about your club Lord as who could be when they just spectate and make up the numbers? Even when you think of the AFL as a whole, you tend to remember great moments, great players. Your “moments” are so far in the past they are fossilised. Who are the really great players leaving a mark past 20 -25 years? Carey, Brereton, Buddy, Plugger, The Abletts, Mcleod, Richo, Voss, Buckley, Hird, Jakovich, Pav, Riewoldt, Watson, Lloyd, Dunstall, Rance, Wanganeen, Tredrea……can’t find any Melbourne players….probably need to go back to Robbie Flower.

            • November 1st 2017 @ 3:29pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

              Who cares Cat? I don’t. Most Essendon supporters don’t. The AFL persecuted us, unfairly yes, but you know what? look at Carlton…all these years you lot have feasted on our supposed dead carcass? Well, we bounce back, play a final, become the new AFL destination club Carlton only dream of being….and then soar into premiership favouritsm…we just pick up where we left off…and that is dominating the competition and being the most successful club at it…oh yes, even more so than Hawthorn….just look up the flag count!

              • November 1st 2017 @ 4:47pm
                Hungry Jack said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

                The harsh truth obviously hurts, Harry. You really do care. Behaving like a schoolboy being accused of liking a girl, lol. BTW, why do you call Essendon a ‘destination’ club? Bit early for that isn’t it? As for all those flags, who really cares. That’s history. The only flag anyone cares about is the next one. Get a grip old timer!

              • Roar Guru

                November 1st 2017 @ 6:45pm
                Cat said | November 1st 2017 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

                Persecuted you? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The guilty aren’t persecuted and Essendon was found guilty.

              • November 1st 2017 @ 9:16pm
                DeanM said | November 1st 2017 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

                No club has won more premierships than Hawthorn since they entered the comp and Essendons last premiership was under the cloud of salary cap cheating. I suppose you boast about Essendon having won more premierships than West Coast too. The most relevant Premierships are those won in the AFL era. Most of Essendons premierships were at a time of no equalistaion methods and realistically on a handful of teams had a genuine chance.
                It’s good to see Essendon injecting young talent into their squad instead of drugs, perhaps they could rise up and win a clean premierships for the first time in a few decades.

        • November 1st 2017 @ 4:14pm
          Peter the Scribe said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

          Come off it you knew he had injury issues O’Meara and went with him anyway for what 6 games?

          • November 1st 2017 @ 4:33pm
            Hungry Jack said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

            Stones and glass houses? Wells at Collingwood? How’s that going?

            • November 1st 2017 @ 4:42pm
              Peter the Scribe said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              HJ, massive difference Wells a free agent , O’Meara they gave away the soul of the club in trades to secure an injury prone question mark.

            • November 1st 2017 @ 4:57pm
              Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

              Wells is done and dusted, a waste of money yes but thats all they paid for him as a free agent…Hawthorn destroyed the heart and soul of the club in clearing out mitchell and Lewis like dead wood then bringing in an injury prone question mark and Vickery. The fact is Clarkson got carried away with himself and destroyed what he had built in the process.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 1st 2017 @ 5:37pm
                Lord Dunsborough of the MCC said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

                Unlike Essendon, who crushed up the heart and soul of club in Dank’s mortar and pestle

              • Roar Guru

                November 1st 2017 @ 5:53pm
                Cat said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

                Look at that Peter and Harry using the same exact wording, what a ‘surprise’

              • November 2nd 2017 @ 1:11pm
                New York Hawk said | November 2nd 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                I’m not sure you’re qualified to speak about Clarke’s actions, decision-making or his tactics? He has four flags, five GF appearances and six prelims. You know better than Clarke, do you? On the off chance you do, please state your qualifications, achievements and nature of your credibility. Unless you are Leigh Matthews with your “Hard Truth Harry” screen name, I can’t we how this is possible.

              • November 2nd 2017 @ 1:22pm
                New York Hawk said | November 2nd 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

                F-ing auto-correct. Clearly I mean “Clarko” above.

            • November 1st 2017 @ 5:10pm
              Peter the Scribe said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

              Ever heard of a free agent HJ? Cost us nothing. What did O’Meara cost the Hawks?

              • November 1st 2017 @ 5:29pm
                Hungry Jack said | November 1st 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

                Revisit that one in ten years, dudes.

      • November 1st 2017 @ 6:03pm
        Joe said | November 1st 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

        “including horrendous treatment of Stevie J”

        What? How? Just because Steve didn’t like it doesn’t mean it was horrendous. Wake up, EVERY player who gets delisted is unhappy about it. Did you read to the end of the article, where Steve said: “I thought it showed a lot of character for Scotty to come around to my house. I was really impressed by that.”

        You’re as one-eyed and delusional as a Trump supporter.

    • November 1st 2017 @ 8:28am
      AR said | November 1st 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Even Hough the article is obviously dated (Hartung no longer a player), there’s a few things I’d disagree with.

      First, you don’t start the best player on the bench. Burgoyne starts at half back.

      Ceglar is also due to return and could eclipse McEvoy as the starting ruck. A good problem to have.

      OBrien, whilst never being a “ruck/forward” like the author suggests, should continue to develop as a reliable (if not exciting) high marking forward. They don’t give #23 to just anyone.

      Very difficult to get a grip on the Hawks for 2018, but I’d be tipping just outside the 8 again.

      • November 1st 2017 @ 10:11am
        Brian said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Not sure about Ceglar. The thinking now is to only play one ruck in the 22. Unless McEvoy gets injured I think Ceglar will struggle to break back into the 22.

        Agree on O’Brien and I think he has shown enough to be given the run at CHF ahead of Schoenmakers or Vickery.

        • November 2nd 2017 @ 8:10pm
          BigAl said | November 2nd 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

          Interesting development re. utilising rucks. I remember the days when Richmond used to start with 2 giant followers – ‘Whale’ Roberts and …someone else !

          Neither would get a game today.

      • Roar Guru

        November 1st 2017 @ 11:36am
        Paul D said | November 1st 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        Pretty sure Ceglar is not going to be a better player than McEvoy. Big Ben takes much better marks and works harder around the ground, he was seriously good for you last season.

        • November 1st 2017 @ 3:30pm
          Birdman said | November 1st 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

          agreed, big Boy was a revelation in 2017

    • November 1st 2017 @ 8:53am
      Nev said | November 1st 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      How short sighted of Clarkson to win 3 flags on the spin

    • November 1st 2017 @ 8:59am
      Adam said | November 1st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report


    • November 1st 2017 @ 10:08am
      Brian said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      Hartung has been desisted and out of favour for some time. Its such a fall from grace I wonder if he has an injury or off field problem. Otherwise it’s strange you would delist a 22 year old with 63 games whilst they still have Whitecross, Schoenmakers, Henderson, Duryea and Vickery. 5 Guys who are all significantly older and barely staying out of the VFL.

      The competition is so even now I think there are about 11 teams who could win the flag next year and the Hawks are one of them. They would need everything to work for them to get close, including on the injury front.

      • November 1st 2017 @ 10:38am
        The whole truth said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Will improve but even if everything works for them won’t even be close to a contender for the flag. Lower reaches of the 8 are a possibility, though. 11 teams, hey? Hedging your bets or what!

      • November 1st 2017 @ 10:57am
        Harsh Truth Harry said | November 1st 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Brian……stop. Hawthorn cannot win the flag next year, that’s like saying Brisbane can…..what a ridiculous comment.

        • November 1st 2017 @ 12:20pm
          Deir-ba-zor said | November 1st 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          less ridiculous than the idea of Essendon winning it.

        • November 1st 2017 @ 2:31pm
          Brian said | November 1st 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          Would Richmond have been in most people top 11 picks last year?
          Salary cap and free agency has kicked in. If all goes well definitely they could contend. Last 16 rounds last year the Hawks were 9-1-6 winning in Adelaide and Sydney. Its a very even competition.

          The only 7 I would rule out are Brisbane, Gold Coast, North, Freo, Carlton, WCE, St Kilda.
          I would have Collingwood in the same boat as Hawthorn, which again is the Richmond end of 2016 position.

          • November 1st 2017 @ 2:59pm
            Hungry Jack said | November 1st 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

            Trouble with your argument Brian is that you completely ignore Richmond’s form through 2013-2015. There were reasons for their poor showing last year, this year proving it was merely a blip. If you can only rule out 7 teams as genuine premiership chances I’m here to take your money!

          • November 2nd 2017 @ 9:54am
            David C said | November 2nd 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            I think you just picked the bottom 7 there. Hawthorn are with Melbourne, Dogs and Collingwood fighting for that last spot in the 8 … not close to being contenders. Do you really thing all those injury prone players who missed games last year are going to stay on the park this year? Burton, Mitchell and maybe O’Meara are the only young A graders (potentially) on the list.

            • November 2nd 2017 @ 1:18pm
              New York Hawk said | November 2nd 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

              Who cares about young A-graders? It is about A-graders in total. Hawks have plenty if they don’t get injured and perform to ability. Hawks A-graders are as follows: Mitchell, Roughie, Burgoyne, Burton, Gunston, Rioli, Birchall, Breust, Frawley, Smith, McEvoy and potentially Sicily and O’Meara. Optimistic, yes. Unrealistic, no.

              • November 2nd 2017 @ 3:05pm
                Harsh Truth Harry said | November 2nd 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

                New York – Here’s some harsh Harry truth at ya!

                Mitchell – one trick pony…gets it out is all, slow doesn’t kick enugh goals
                Roughie – best footy days behind him.
                Burgoyne – come off it, he will be 46 next year
                Burton – ok theres one who can play
                Gunston – not as good as he used to be suddenly in a very average team
                Breust – not as good as he used to be suddenly in a very average team
                Frawley – was never that good actually, getting old, best behind him
                Smith – Mr inconsistent and traumatised by missing those goals
                Rioli – hamstrings like frayed rope
                Birchall – good solid player nothing more
                McEvoy – so average he couldnt get a game at St Kilda
                O’Meara – injury prone when they took him, played 6 games in 2017
                Sicily – flashy, inconsistent and self indulgent.

      • Roar Guru

        November 1st 2017 @ 3:25pm
        Penster said | November 1st 2017 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Hartung’s delisting is not a big surprise. Aside from running – he’s fast – he doesn’t have the attributes that small bodies need to be valuable. They may collect him on the draft rebound tho. Vickery has only had 1 year, I haven’t completely written him off.
        I think the Hawks will be around the 8 at end of 2018, either just in or just out – because the Saints and West Coast will slide a few places; Melbourne’s draw is tough and Footscray don’t look likely.