Hawthorn had seven wins, two draws and 13 losses, finishing 14th, just behind Carlton on percentage, in season 2021.
Sam Mitchell is steering well clear of making bold predictions about Hawthorn’s regeneration as he takes charge of the AFL club’s new era.
Mitchell oversaw day one of the Hawks’ pre-season campaign on Monday as five new draftees joined a smattering of senior players, including Jack Gunston and James Sicily.
The two experienced stars are in line to return from long injury layoffs next season to bolster the Hawks’ chances of climbing back up the ladder after three years out of the finals.
Mitchell, whose handover from coaching legend Alastair Clarkson was brought forward, is hoping to inspire Hawthorn’s large membership base as he settles into the hot seat a year earlier than expected.
But the 39-year-old rookie coach isn’t putting specific expectations on his group for 2022 as he attempts to put the building blocks in place for future success.
“Expectations is (the media’s) area – we won’t be worrying too much about that,” Mitchell said on Monday.
“We’ll be putting our plans together and trying to make sure everyone knows what each other are doing on the field, and we’ll be trying to play the best footy that we can.
“We don’t have a clue what that will look like and you guys (the media) will have plenty of ideas about what you think that might be, but we won’t know that until March at the earliest.
“We’re going to try our very, very best to get aligned, get on the same page and figure out the game style that will give us the best chance for success.”
Sicily missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury and Gunston managed just one game because of back issues, but Mitchell is hopeful the two leaders will be fit and firing next year.
The Hawks will take a slow and steady approach with Gunston, who is set to resume ball work next week.
“He’s running well and he’s keen to get involved,” Mitchell said.
“I think last time he was trying to get back and push himself but this time he’s just got full faith in the medical team.
“He probably could be doing a little bit more but they’re trying to ease him into it and keep him nice and safe.”
Hawthorn secured prized target Josh Ward at No.7 overall in last week’s national draft and added fellow Victorian prospects Sam Butler (23), Conno MacDonald (26), Jai Serong (53) and Ned Long (rookie draft) to their list.
“It feels amazing,” Ward after his first training session with the club he barracked for as a child.
“It’s a great honour (to be the Hawks’ top selection) but once we all got here it’s just down to footy really and about putting in the work and earning the respect of your teammates.
“We all start at the same spot and it feels amazing to be at Hawthorn – it’s a dream come true – but I’m just trying to focus on getting to work now.”