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The comprehensive end-of-year review: Hawthorn Hawks

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Roar Guru
6 days ago
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With the home-and-away season, the finals series, and the trade period all completed, it’s time to do not only a review of each club’s 2018 season (complete with expectation comparisons) but the likelihoods and expectations for the coming 2019 campaign.

This is the tenth of nineteen articles looking at the meta-results for both team and players, as collected from ELO-Following Football’s wide range of sources.

Today, it’s the Hawthorn Hawks.

Back in 2017
The team finished out of finals for the first time in a decade (and out of the top four for the first time in six years) with a home-and-away record of 10-11-1, in 12th place, with a percentage of just 91%. Considering how poorly they started the season, reaching just short of .500 was an impressive accomplishment. (I wrote an obituary to the Hawks era after R6 last year. I formally withdraw that opinion now.)

If you’ll recall, Alastair Clarkston had “lost his touch”, was “too old”, the game “had passed him by”. Fortunately for the faithful, he apparently doesn’t read the news. (Only his text messages from Darwin.)

The expectations for the team…
Were gloomy. Dinny Navaratnam over at AFL.com.au had the Hawks coming in sixth – closer than anyone else came to their top-four finish. The consensus placement was 10th place, under the conflicting assumptions that they would be better than last year but that the dynasty was over.

We had them 10th as well. 9th place was actually the most common guess (the ultimate compromise), balanced out by a few crash-and-burns.

Coming into the season, the players who were considered to be in the top 50 in the league by the AFLPA and/or The Roar were on a very short list: Tom Mitchell (top 20), along with veterans Shaun Burgoyne and the now-retired Cyril Rioli.

In 2018, the team finished with 15 wins, a top-four double chance, and a percentage of 120.1%, only to be edged out of third by the Magpies.

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It’s been four years since their three-peat of titles ended in 2015. Three different teams have won the Grand Final since then, all unexpectedly, and unless Richmond takes up that crown after laying it down on the MCG turf at Mason Cox’s feet, there’s been no hint of a dynasty to replace theirs since 2015.

It’s been 93 years since the first Hawthorn VFL team took the field, and like most “expansion teams”, it took awhile to get its footing – more time than most, perhaps. Most folks don’t remember that it took 18 seasons to garner its first winning record, a wartime 9-6 tally with their first three-digit percentage of just under 104%.

Another fourteen years passed before it happened again, and this time (in 1957), they reached double-digit wins for the first time, not to mention into finals! (They were third.) It was another four years, the 37th of their existence before the Hawthorn Football Club won its first title.

According to our patented “ELO-Following Football” rating system
The team started the season almost dead average at 50.7, in an eighth-place tie with Melbourne. Hawthorn rose almost immediately to 64.3 after R4, and hit a season high of 65.8 in R21.

If they hadn’t played Brisbane, they might have risen all season long; as it is, they lost 17 rating points from their two losses to the Lions in R9 and R17, two drops that they had to crawl back up from into the mid-60s each time.

Fortunately for them, Brisbane won’t be in finals until next year. The Hawks are currently sporting a rating of 59.3 after being nuked twice during finals, falling from 64.3 in fourth to end the year with just the ninth-highest rating in the league.

Paul Puopolo

(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

The other rating systems
Are not nearly as bullish on the Hawks, it seems: nobody else has them higher than seventh at the end of the home-and-away season, and generally they’ve been less volatile in most other systems (except the Wooden Finger, where those Brisbane losses knocked the Hawks for a loop each time).

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ACROSS THE SPECTRUM game-by-game expectations
Final record: 15-7.

Betting Line expectations: 13-8-1, although they also had the best record against the spread this year at 14-8.

ELO-Following Football forecasts: 16-6.

AFL.com.au game predictions: 16-6

The Roar predictions) Higher than every other pundit – we had their games this season with 17 wins expected, just 4 losses, and one split. The individual picks were 86-45.

“Pick-A-Winner” predictions: 16.5 to 5.5. The individual picks were 174 to 90.

The Age forecasters: 14-8.

BetEasy “CrowdBet” percentages: 16-6; the total percentage was 1543% win, 657% to lose.

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My own game-by-game predictions pegged them at a healthy 17-5.

What was their best game of the season? Well, that last win in R23 at the SCG was pretty cool: an 83-74 victory that send the Swans to the elimination finals and sealed their return to the top four double chance, which they needed after realizing their first opponent would be Richmond. The three-point win in Tasmania against Port in R11 was pretty satisfying as well.

Which game would they most like to erase from memory? “Any game involving Brisbane” is the easy answer – apparently Luke Hodge took their secret sauce with him when he moved east – but the two finals losses were more devastating from a long-term perspective. They’ve now lost four straight finals matches since they last lifted the Premiership Trophy in 2015 – straight sets losses in 2016 and 2018, with no post-season play in between.

What’s worse is that this year, they were expected to lose both games, first to defending champion Richmond 95-64, and then to the upstart hot-hand one slot below them, Melbourne, at the MCG 104-71. Whatever happens in 2019 had best include at least one September victory to consider the year a success.

If we were to speak of the club in as many words as they had wins in 2018: “Alastair Clarkson is this coach: ‘He can beat your’n with his’n, and his’n with your’n.’”

Meta-player of the year results
Over the course of the season, we gathered game-by-game naming of the outstanding players of the game or the week from fourteen different sources. These range from “Team of the Week” listings to more Brownlow-like top player of the game scenarios. Our tallies are from external sources, while the team’s “Best and Fairest” was selected by the team’s coaches, so they never quite match up.

But it’s still an interesting comparison.

Regarding “Dominant”, “Prominent”, and “Notable” performances, those terms indicate games where 90%, 80%, or 70% of those fourteen sources recognized the player as outstanding in that week’s game. (This is the most “Brownlow-ish” we can get during the year!)

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1.Tom Mitchell – 510 points (2nd overall). Also first in points for Hawthorn in finals.

Best and Fairest finish: First (his second medal with Hawthorn). Received 28 votes to win the 2018 Brownlow Medal.

Tom Mitchell

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: First (6th overall), and sixth at Sydney in 2016.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: Three dominant games (in Round 18, 19, and 20 consecutively), and seven prominent games (Round 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 13, and 15).

All-Australian Midfielder, ELO-FF Top 22, First Team Midfielder.

2. Luke Breust – 295 points (22nd overall)

Best and Fairest finish: Sixth.

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Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Tenth (166th overall)

Dom/Prom/Notable games: Four dominant games (in Round 4, 16, 18, and 19), and one notable game (Round 14).

All-Australian Forward, ELO-FF Top 22, First Team Forward.

3. Jack Gunston – 235 points (35th overall) Second in points for Hawthorn in finals.

Best and Fairest finish: Fourth. Received ten votes, third most on the club in the Brownlow count.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Third (80th overall) and fifth in 2016.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: Two dominant games (Round 20, R22), one prominent game (Round 8), and two notable games (Round 13 and Round 16).

All-Australian Forward.

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4. James Sicily – 213 points (50th overall)

Best and Fairest finish: Tenth. Received eight votes in the Brownlow count, equal fourth on the club.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Eighth (146th overall) and tenth in 2016.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: Two prominent games (Round 7 and Round 13) and three notable games (Round 1, Round 11, and Round 14).

5. Jaeger O’Meara – 177 points (65th overall)

Best and Fairest finish: Fifth. Second on the club with 13 Brownlow votes.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 23rd.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: One of each – dominant (Round 4), prominent (Round 17), and notable (Round 13).

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6. Isaac Smith – 140 points (80th overall). Fifth on the club in points during finals.

Best and Fairest finish: Third.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Seventh (132nd overall)

Dom/Prom/Notable games: A dominant game in R6.

7. Liam Shiels – 139 points (82nd overall). Third on the club in points during the finals.

Best and Fairest finish: Equal eighth; won the club medal for outstanding player during finals as well. Equal fourth in the Brownlow count on the club with eight votes.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Ninth (150th overall)

Dom/Prom/Notable games: One of each as well – dominant (Round 4), prominent (Round 23), and notable (Round 14).

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8. Ben McEvoy – 110 points (103rd overall)

Best and Fairest finish: Equal eighth. Equal fourth on the club with eight Brownlow votes.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Fourth (93rd overall).

Dom/Prom/Notable games: One dominant game in Round 2.

9. Shaun Burgoyne – 97 points (120th overall)

Best and Fairest finish: not in top ten.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Second (93rd overall). He was sixth (79th overall) in 2016.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: One prominent game, in Round 11, and one notable game, in Round 19.

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10. Ben Stratton – 92 points (124th overall)

Best and Fairest finish: Seventh.

Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 24th.

Dom/Prom/Notable games: One notable game in Round 20.

Hawthorn had seven top 100 players and ten top 200 players in the 2018 ELO-FF meta-rankings. Averages would be 5½ and 11, respectively.

Honorable Mentions
Rick Henderson – 16th place (42 points). Fourth on the club in points during finals.

James Worpel – 11th place (60 points). Rookie of the year for the club. Also had two notable games, in R18 and R20.

Player movement during the trade period
In: Jack Scrimshaw, Tom Scully (from GWS), Chad Wingard (from PA).

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Gone: Ryan Burton and Taylor Duryea.

Current list of draft picks: #53, 80. (But remember, their only draft pick last year was #88.)

2019 Roster highlights
Defencemen: Grant Birchall, Kaiden Brand, James Frawley, Blake Hardwick, Teia Miles, David Mirra, Harry Morrison, Conor Nash, James Sicily, Ben Stratton.

Midfielders: Conor Glass, Rick Henderson, Daniel Howe, Jarman Impey, Tom Mitchell, Jaegar O’Meara, Ryan Schoenmakers, Tom Scully, Liam Shiels, Isaac Smith, James Worpel.

In the ruck: Jonathan Ceglar, Ben McEvoy.

Forwards: Luke Breust, Shaun Burgoyne, Jack Gunston, Mitch Lewis, Paul Puopolo, Jarryd Roughead, Chad Wingard.

Forecast for the 2019 Hawthorn Hawks
Never bet against Alastair Clarkson. Or the Hawthorn athletic training staff, who will get Scully back into working condition and return him to the talent he once had. Wingard is in the perfect environment for him: let Mitchell get him the ball and watch him go.

Hawthorn will make top four again this season, but won’t make the grand final, considering the other teams around them. We’re slotting them in the #3 position at season’s end.

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