Hawthorn’s 2017 season was a tale of two halves. After a poor start, the Hawks seemed to find their feet and taste some success in the later rounds, especially against some of the top teams in the competition. In fact, if you based the ladder only on matches played since the split rounds, Hawthorn would be in 6th place which bodes well for next year and beyond.
Here’s my take on player rankings for the season just ended:
2) Jarryd Roughead – 7/10
Roughy warmed all of our hearts when he returned from his battle with cancer. He has played in every game this year but unfortunately has not reached his previous heights, however after nearly 18 months out of the game this is to be expected. Clarko has employed him more as a big outside midfielder with bursts in the forward half. He ended the year on a high, kicking 5 goals in Luke Hodge’s farewell game.
In his first year as Captain, he has been a willing leader, but has not fully left his mark on the team. This has stood out at times and the team has suffered due to a lack of on-field direction.
3) Tom Mitchell – 9.5/10
The midfielder has been superb in all respects since joining the Hawks in a trade from Sydney at the end of 2016. He has dominated with his ball winning abilities.
He has, on occasion, attracted criticism for chalking up ‘meaningless possessions’ with many pointing to him waxing across half back. This criticism, whilst harsh, has some merit. But countering this argument is the glimpse of the future he showed between rounds 12-17 where he took on a more attacking mindset, kicking 7 goals.
He will win the Peter Crimmins Medal in a landslide and is a dark horse for the Brownlow Medal.
4) Billy Hartung – 4/10
The speedy winger has so many qualities that the team needs – primarily his line breaking speed. But these qualities are negated by his flawed decision making and haphazard skills. He was showing signs of improvement in the latter parts of the season by taking the game on more, only to have his flaws rear their ugly head at key times.
It seems apparent that his name will be available in trade discussions.
5) Ryan Burton – 8.5/10
Burton has been outstanding as a cultured key defender and was rarely beaten in any games this season. He is lethal when rebounding out of defence where his pristine skills and high grade decision making come to the fore.
He should win the Rising Star Award and from 2018 onwards should excel as a silken midfielder.
6) Josh Gibson- (no grading)
After 166 legendary games with the Hawks, sadly Gibson will depart the club at season’s end.
7) Ben McEvoy – 9/10
McEvoy has been great in the ruck, playing this role in a Jim Stynes ruck/rover style. He is very dangerous when floating forward with his elite contested marking and straight kicking for goal. Aside from the retiring Hodge, he has been the team’s best on-field leader this season.
If not for Mitchell, he would be our B&F winner and should have been included in the All Australian squad of 40.
8)Taylor Duryea – 6/10
Dumped after struggling in defence early in the season where he always seemed to lack awareness of what was around him, he was re-invented as a defensive forward after the mid-season break where his efforts have been very admirable.
9) Shaun Burgoyne – 9/10
The man known as ‘Silk’ seems to get better with age and this season saw him put on some vintage displays in the midfield. His sublime game against Sydney was a stand out.
Call me insane, but I think he is a rough chance of playing 400 games.
10) Jaeger O’Meara – 5/10
The big name recruit’s first year at the club has been largely frustrating. He has struggled with the legacy of major knee issues. This stood out in the early part of the season where he was reticent to kick and seemed more intent on handballing. He was shelved by the club after round 7.
After returning for Box Hill, he looked brilliant and his dazzling foot skills were on display with him kicking three goals. This saw him returned to the senior team for the last two games of the season.
He was very impressive in the last game of the season which augurs well for his Hawthorn career to be fully kick started from 2018 onwards.
11) Brendan Whitecross – 5/10
Whitecross is a skilled, versatile and smart footballer with natural leadership qualities, but after failing to seal a place in the best 22 it seems apparent he will leave the club in a trade.
12) James Frawley – 4/10
The irrational criticism Frawley attracts from our fan base always astounds me. He is highly capable as a spoiling defender against big “monster” players and he has the pace to match more elusive types.
He was disappointing this year prior to succumbing to a rather odd injury (turf toe) after round 8 but will be the team’s key back in 2018 and beyond.
13) Jono O’Rourke – (no rating)
After a pre-season where he was a standout, his season was ruined by injury. It will be interesting if he is retained by the club with many going past him in the pecking order during his absence. I would retain him next year out of respect for his potential as an inside midfielder with ability on the outside.
14) Grant Birchall – 7/10
Injury ruined his season with the evergreen defender only playing 5 games. In those games he showed how pivotal he is to the team with his composure and sublime skills. A natural leader, Birchall should perhaps have been made Captain this year, rather than Roughead.
15) Luke Hodge ( no rating)
16) Isaac Smith – 5/10
After the previous two seasons where he was in the reckoning for the All Australian team, Smith was very disappointing this year. There are rumours he has been hindered by a nagging hip complaint and it is clear that he has suffered without the support of Bradley Hill. Oppositions have locked down on him rather than being torn between which of the lethal duo to mark.
He was elevated this season to the role of Vice Captain of the team however has proven to be rather lacklustre as an on-field leader.
17) Daniel Howe – 8/10
After being inserted into the midfield, Howe has been a huge key in the team’s turnaround. He has played as a defensive force, negating some of the biggest names in the game and has also provided shielding for other midfielders due to his hulking frame.
18) Jonathon Ceglar (no rating)
Out all season after a knee reconstruction.
19) Jack Gunston – 8/10
In a season where many team mates have had their reputations diminish in a struggling team, Gunston has shown he belongs in the elite echelon of the AFL. After being switched to a ‘sweeper’ role across half back, he has dominated.
20) Dallas Willsmore – 4/10
Willsmore made his debut this season and played 2 games, but he failed to make a real presence and it appears he will be delisted.
21) James Sicily – 8/10
The incendiary nature of Sicily is a bit like capturing ‘lightning in a bottle’. If you can harness his abilities, he is startling with his skill and x-factor. The downside is his attitude which unfortunately negates all his positive qualities and has a negative effect on the team.
He could be a true star as a definitive rebounding defender alongside his capabilities as a deadly dangerous forward.
22) Luke Breust – 4/10
There is no doubt Breust is a brilliant small forward with his career record of 304 goals from 161 games paying due testimony to his might. But he has been largely disappointing in 2017 with his work rate dropping dramatically and standing out for relying on cheap goals out the back.
In looking forward, it raises the question whether he represents greater value in being retained by the club or floated as trade bait.
The obvious deal would be to trade Breust to GWS in exchange for Lachie Whitfield which would alleviate the team’s pace issues on the outside.
23) Tim O’Brien – 6/10
2017 has been a break out year for the young key position player. He has excited with his one grab marking and long straight kicking at goal, which yielded 19 goals for the season. The challenge going forward is replacing his teasing nature with greater consistency. Most view the need for greater bulk on his slight frame but I think he should focus more on his running ability.
O’Brien should load up on Nick Riedwoldt videos and mirror his running style of key forward play where he ground opponents into the turf.
24) Ben Stratton – 4/10
The elite marking defender was very average until being lost to a season ending injury.
25) Ryan Schoenmakers – 6/10
Schoenmakers has been brilliant in the role as a defensive forward where he limited his man and punished them with his laser like goal kicking. He is very good in transitioning into attack where his almost elite foot skills are impressive. It has seen the Club reward him with a new contract for 2018.
The aside is he struggles in a more structured role such as a key back, but in an age all about ‘roles’ he is very capable.
26) Liam Shiels – 6/10
After a lacklustre start to the season, the team’s new Vice Captain improved in the latter stages. It coincided with the move of Howe into the midfield to assume Shiels’ defensive role which allowed him shielding and more freedom.
As with the rest of the new leadership group Shiels was rather average.
27) Ty Vickery – 0/10
The big key forward has been hugely disappointing after joining the club from Richmond. Let us hope he can fight back with a better showing in 2018.
28) Paul Puopolo – 5/10
Between 2013-15, the defensive forward was one of the most respected players due to his inspiring 1%’s. Standing out this year was that he seemed intent on trying to contend for mark of the year by constantly flying for marks rather than focussing on what made him so valued in prior seasons. By doing this it fractured the team’s structure in the forward line by facilitating opposition rebounds due to depriving the team of his defensive presence when the ball hits the ground.
Puopolo has been a great servant of the club, but I think he will be traded to another club.
29) Will Langford – 6/10
Langford is a case of “maybe”. When cast in a defensive forward role in the latter parts of the season he was been brilliant with his pressure and relentless harrying which caused many second chance goals. The downside was his inability to kick straight for goal which diminished his effectiveness. His skill issues by foot put a huge question mark against his name when going forward and this issue could be very difficult to rectify.
30) Kaiden Brand – 6/10
Brand has been great in the key defensive role marking the big forwards. The challenge for him going forward is his versatility against other forwards. This was highlighted against Richmond where he was all at sea when marking the more agile Josh Caddy.
31) Ricky Henderson – 7/10
The recruit from the Crows started the year slowly with his killer turnovers seeing him dropped. In the latter part of the season he was very good and his running off the ball was a stand out. He managed to create opportunities for team mates with the space he opened up as well as profiting from this himself.
32) Jack Fitzpatrick (no rating)
Fitzpatrick only played one game before succumbing to concussion which saw him retire.
33) Cyril Rioli – 5/10
A largely disappointing year for the star small forward with him well below his best before being outed for the season with injury after round 8. He will rise again in 2018 and offer the forward line the structure that is was so lacking for most of this season.
34) Kurt Heatherley – 5/10
After playing 4 games this year and being dropped twice, it is doubtful that he will be at the Club next year. I think this will be a mistake with Heatherley capable on big forwards and more elusive types due to his pace. He could even be a very able big wingman.
35) Harry Morrison – 8/10
The Godson of Ken Judge had a brilliant debut in the last game against the Western Bulldogs with Hawk fans touting him as being a star from next year onwards. The reality is the Club gave him a taste and he will likely be predominantly at Box Hill next year with the club shielding him in his infancy so as to not burn him out. His time will come, from 2019 onwards.
36) Kieran Lovell – (no rating)
This youngster was set for a break out year in the midfield with his natural ball winning abilities and pace allowing him to burst out of congestion. He is a natural footballer with very good skills and a real eye for goal.
37) Blake Hardwick – 8/10
The youngster has been superb as a rebounding defender. He resembles Brent Guerra with his combination of toughness and elite skill.
39) Mitchell Lewis (no rating)
Young draftee in his first year at the club serving an apprenticeship at Box Hill.
40) Kade Stewart – 4/10
Stewart played 4 games to add to his three from last year but mainly seemed to struggle with the pace of the AFL.
41) Oliver Hanrahan (no rating)
First year rookie plying his trade at Box Hill.
42) Teia Miles – 5/10
The youngster made his debut this season playing 4 games all up. Looked out of his depth in his first stint but showed some good signs later in the season, kicking two goals against Richmond. This was a fine individual performance in a game that the team was very average in.
43) Marc Pittonet (no rating)
A young ruckman developing his trade at Box Hill with him not adding to his 3 career games this year. He shows real potential as a tap ruckman but has a lot of work to do on his around the ground coverage and work.
44) Conor Glass – 8/10
The Irishman has been outstanding after being elevated off the rookie list. His stand out strength is as a speedy defensive rebounder with very good foot skills. After watching him against Carlton, he also showed he has real potential as an under-sized second key defender.
He could emulate Sydney’s Dane Rampe’s ascent in the game after being cast in this role.
45) Conor Nash (no rating)
Young rookie from Ireland who has played mostly for the Box Hill development squad. Was very decent in the Box Hill seniors in the last game of the season as a forward.
46) James Cousins – 7/10
This rookie was elevated during the season, playing 3 games. He impressed with his natural ball winning ability and the fact that he has the ability to kick with both feet. This ability stands out in an age where so many resort to low percentage check side kicks as they are so one sided.