Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson now wants consistency from his side after they kept their AFL top-eight hopes alive with a gritty 31-point win over Fremantle in Launceston.
Everyone, including Alistair Clarkson, was surprised with the success Hawthorn achieved in the home-and-away season, so we should not be too shocked at the straight sets demise of the Hawks at the business end of the season.
After missing the finals in 2017, finishing 12th, Clarkson set the club on a path of rebuilding. He held on to ten of the Hawks’ top 100 game players but let Josh Gibson retire and moved Luke Hodge on. In 2018, he lost Cyril Rioli to retirement and Grant Birchall to injury but, the master coach that he is, and aided by a good draw in which he only played two top eight teams twice (Geelong and Sydney), he still managed a top four position.
The Hawks only introduced five players this year, including import Jarman Impey from Port Adelaide, who played every game for the year and was an extremely good pick up. James Worpel also showed promise and played in eight wins in his eleven games, but the jury is still out on the other recruits.
When combined with last years crop, however, the club now has a good nucleus of younger players to take them forward as they gain experience in the brown and gold jumpers. Tom Mitchell was a ready-made ball magnet and Jaeger O’Meara eventually got some time on the paddock to justify his high price tag.
Ricky Henderson likewise added another 21 games to his solitary game in 2017.
Clarkson has now made the finals 10 times in the 14 years he has been coach, and bought home the silverware four times so, with these impeccable qualifications, it would be a brave man who suggests he does not have a plan to keep the Hawks near the top of the tree.
His old stager is the wonderful Shaun Burgoyne who, if he plays on as expected in 2019, will finish as the second-oldest player to represent the club, behind only the inimitable Michael Tuck.
Whereas Jarryd Roughead, Grant Birchall, Paul Puopolo, Ricky Henderson, Ben Stratton, Ben McEvoy, James Frawley and Isaac Smith are all around the 29-30 age group so it is possible that some will be moved on to make way for new blood when the year-end review is conducted but, as is the Hawthorn way, new homes will be found for some.
The club is well served with goal kickers, an important ingredient in success. Captain Jarryd Roughead, Luke Bruest and Jack Gunston are all in the top 11 goal scorers of all time at the club and are ably supported by regular contributions from other Hawthorn top 100 goal scorers in Paul Puopolo, Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne and Liam Shiels.
It is interesting to note that the Box Hill Hawks (Hawthorn’s VFL team) have made their way through to the Grand Final on the VFL competition where they will play the Casey Demons next weekend. This tends to suggest the club has plenty of talent and I predict they will be thereabouts in the top eight again next year.