I prefer to remember the Ben Stratton who in big moments clunked huge intercept marks to relieve pressure.
I prefer to remember the Ben Stratton who had the ability to shut down the more influential of forwards.
I prefer to remember a Ben Stratton from a golden era when he was in a backline surrounded by greats.
Ben Stratton isn’t passing the eye test currently. The veteran halfback has struggled for form since he has taken on the role of captain from club favourite Jarryd Roughead.
This year his drop in form has culminated in commentators and spectators calling for him to be omitted from the team entirely. Dropping a club captain would be embarrassing for both the club and player alike.
Instead I would like Stratton to consider passing the leadership baton on.
Stepping down as captain would still, understandably, be a smear on his otherwise distinguished career. However, sacrificing his position for the benefit of the team would be remembered as true to character for a player who goes about his game with little fanfare, simply aiming to limit his oppositions output.
Stepping down as captain to concentrate on form reminds one of Ricky Ponting handing over the responsibility to Michael Clarke citing the need to concentrate on his own batting performance as the motivation, arguably with mixed results. The promotion seemingly boosted Clarke’s sense of personal responsibility, with his average skyrocketing to over 100 the following year. Ponting, conversely, never regained the batting form that cemented him as champion.
Who could succeed Stratton in the role?
Isaac Smith was shortlisted for the role previously. He is well regarded in the club as an intelligent footballer.
Jaeger O’Meara is earmarked as a future leader. His communication skills would be appreciated by some supporters who consider Stratton to be too quiet for the role. Interestingly, O’Meara would be the first Hawthorn captain who started his career at another club.
James Sicily, the fiery halfback, is in All Australian form this year. His strong personality might be what the team need to reset.
Shaun Burgoyne, a seasoned veteran, could fill the role in what will likely be his last year in the competition. Handing over to a Burgoyne could allow the club to go through its due process to find a permanent solution at the end of the year.
It would be a controversial move, but a mid-course correction could be what the Hawks need to get back on track. And, arguably, a sans-leadership in-form Stratton would benefit the club at a time when their distribution from the halfback has been a point of contention.