It’s a new look Hawthorn team heading into season 2021. The Hawks are now almost unrecognizable from the team that three-peated now over five years ago.
Ruckman – turned defender Ben McEvoy will captain the side following the retirement of Ben Stratton who was one of four premiership players to leave the Hawks along with Paul Puopolo (retired), James Frawley (St Kilda), and Isaac Smith (Geelong).
The Hawks have replaced the latter two with Kyle Hartigan who is set to slot into the defence and ex-magpie Tom Phillips to provide run on the wing.
15th (5-12, 84.1%)
The Hawks looked to be a threat in the early stages of the 2020 season winning three of its first four games.
Comprehensive wins at the MCG over Brisbane in round 1 and Richmond in round 3 showed that the Hawks were capable of competing against the league’s best.
After a move to hubs in round 6, the Hawks were almost unrecognizable, winning just two more games for the rest of the year.
The Hawks welcomed back Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell after a broken leg saw him miss the entirety of 2019 while the inclusion of ex-Dee Sam Frost proved to be a success.
Jack Gunston returned to career-best form, leading the Hawks goal-kicking and winning the Best and Fairest award. Draftee Will Day exceeded expectations in an impressive first season.
Hawthorn NGA draftee Connor Downie is almost a lock for round 1 after a standout performance in the clubs practice match against the Western Bulldogs.
After finishing the season on a high, youngster Dylan Moore has been in everything this pre-season and looks set to feature as a regular for the Hawks in 2021.
Father-son Finn Maginness took out the early pre-season time trial and has impressed with his endurance whilst Changkuoth Jiath took out the most recent 2km time trial as he pushes for a regular spot across half-back.
New recruit Kyle Hartigan looks comfortable in a new look Hawthorn defence after arriving from Adelaide in the off-season and is in ripping shape, while Tom Phillips also looks to be settling nicely.
Draftee Tyler Brockman looks likely to earn an early-season debut after some electrifying glimpses in the club’s intraclub and practice match against the Bulldogs.
Drafted as a defender in 2018, Jacob Koschitzke has been working closely with new forwards coach Craig McRae as he looks to learn the craft of a tall forward.
What to look forward to:
A changing of the guard
It’s a new look Hawthorn team than the one that was so dominant not so long ago with only five players remaining that were a part of that stunning three-peat.
One of them is new captain Ben McEvoy who will lead a younger brigade in 2021 with the Hawks having 21 players aged 22 or younger.
The likes of James Cousins, Damon Greaves and Dylan Moore look set to feature more regularly whilst James Worpel, Mitch Lewis and Will Day will take on more responsibility in their respective positions.
The Hawks are also likely to get an early look at Denver Grainger Barras who was taken at pick 6 in the 2020 National Draft with the key tall defender expected to slot into the back six alongside ex-crow Kyle Hartigan.
The Hawks may be in rebuild mode but there is plenty of youth for the Hawks to get excited about.
It’s a big year for:
Dylan Moore looked to be on the verge of being delisted for much of season 2020 until he was selected late in the year as the Hawks looked to blood some youth.
The half-forward ended the season in style picking up a Brownlow vote against Gold Coast in round 18 after accumulating 25 disposals and kicking a goal.
With the retirement of Paul Puopolo, a small forward role is vacant for Moore although he will have to compete with the likes of Ollie Hanrahan and new draftee Tyler Brockman for that spot.
With the ability to run all day and push up the ground, Moore can also play on the wing and has the tools and footy IQ to be damaging in the midfield.
Biggest unanswered question:
Who’s kicking the goals?
With Hawthorn’s 2020 leading goal kicker Jack Gunston set to miss the first half of the season as he recovers from back surgery, there will be plenty of interest to where the Hawks goals will come from.
There were good signs from last Wednesday’s scratch match against the Western Bulldogs with Ollie Hanrahan, Tim O’Brien, and veteran Luke Breust kicking three apiece. Tall forward Mitch Lewis also chipped in with two.
With uncertainty around Jon Patton’s return, undrafted Tasmanian teenager Jackson Callow looms as the potential replacement having trained with the Hawks since January and is eligible to be picked up as an SPP selection due to the retirement of Tom Scully.
Untried youngsters Emerson Jeka and Jacob Koschitzke are other tall options.
Coach pressure index:
After two consecutive seasons outside the top eight, Alistair Clarkson’s hopes of winning a fifth premiership before his contract expires at the end of 2022 appear unlikely as things stand.
However, the four-time premiership coach has committed to the rebuild at Hawthorn and won’t be going anywhere soon.
Under Clarkson, the Hawks have only missed the finals in four of the past 14 years meaning they could be back playing finals sooner rather than later.
Newly appointed Box Hill coach and former Hawthorn Premiership captain Sam Mitchell looks to be the next in line should Clarko’s tenure end sooner than later.
A new direct, fast-paced game plan is also believed to be under construction at Waverley Park this pre-season by Clarko and co.
Ins: Kyle Hartigan, Tom Phillips, Denver Grainger-Barras, Seamus Mitchell, Connor Downie, Tyler Brockman, Jack Saunders
Outs: James Frawley, Conor Glass, Will Golds, Ricky Henderson, Harry Jones, Darren Minchington, Paul Puopolo, Jackson Ross, Isaac Smith, Ben Stratton, Mathew Walker
Predicted Rd 1 line-up:
B: Blake Hardwick, Kyle Hartigan, Damon Greaves
HB: Jack Scrimshaw, Sam Frost, Jarman Impey
C: Tom Phillips, James Worpel, Will Day
HF: Dylan Moore, Tim O’Brien, Shaun Burgoyne
F: Luke Breust, Mitchell Lewis, Chad Wingard
R: Ben McEvoy, Jaeger O’Meara, Liam Shiels
IC: Harry Morrison, Johnathon Ceglar, Connor Downie, Ollie Hanrahan
*Tom Mitchell unlikely to feature due to injury
Predicted ladder range:
The Hawks were underwhelming in season 2020 but have shown signs that they may be on the up rather than dropping further down the ladder.
A win over the Bulldogs in Wednesday’s scratch match may be a little confidence booster for the young Hawks who showed that they can run with some of the league’s stronger sides.
The Hawks however have been struck by injuries with James Sicily likely to be out for the season while he recovers from an ACL injury whilst Gunston will miss the early stages of the season as he recovers from back surgery.
Tom Mitchell is also in doubt for round one as he manages a shoulder injury as is Chad Wingard with a calf.