The predominant talk coming out of Hawthorn is that it will remain fairly inactive this trade period. It seems the Hawks are choosing to hold firm this year, after last year’s trade period which left us all in a state of stunned shock.
Based on the team’s results from the second half of this season, where it ranked 6th in the AFL, it is a sound strategy. After a very disappointing first half to 2017, Hawthorn’s revival was inspired by a heavy injection of youth, borne out of necessity given the number of injuries to its experienced players.
Assuming a full list, this could be the starting 22 for 2018:
B: Shaun Burgoyne, James Frawley, Blake Hardwick
HB: Grant Birchall, James Sicily, Ben Stratton
C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara
HF: Jack Gunston, Tim O’Brien, Cyril Rioli
F: Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Will Langford
R: Ben McEvoy, Ryan Burton, Liam Shiels
INT from- Taylor Duryea, Jonathan Ceglar, Ryan Schoenmakers, Kaiden Brand, Paul Puopolo,Ricky Henderson
On paper, this team looks very impressive. It is a line-up that should be capable of challenging for a return to the finals.
The only stand out weakness is the absence of outside pace. This was a key issue for the Hawks in 2017, as exposed late in the season by a slick Tigers outfit, which sliced the Hawks to ribbons with their lethal run. It would be in keeping with the Hawks’ form guide to address this need. After all, they have a recruiting ethos of never sitting on their hands and addressing immediate issues.
The club suffered badly after Brad Hill left to Fremantle at the end of 2016. Billy Hartung was a logical replacement however he has been largely frustrating and only shown glimpses of brilliance. This created a domino effect that ultimately crashed on Isaac Smith, who had a down season without the support that Hill used to provide.
In order to rectify this problem, it was surprising the club wasn’t active in pursuing Lachie Whitfield, the young outside runner who recently re-signed with GWS. The reticence to approach Whitfield could be attributed to worries about his past issues. The greater reality is that the club is limited in its trading capacity this season with an absence of attractive high draft picks to facilitate such a trade. There are a few young players that could set up such a deal, however rather than hand these over to a rival club, these are all players that the club would want to build a present and future around.
If rumours that Sun Adam Saad is available are to be believed, he would represent a perfect fit for the team. He is a young, skilled player with blistering pace. In mentioning Saad, the same frustration exists. The Suns would want a top 10 draft pick in return, or a player they deem as worthy of such an exchange and the Hawks are unlikely to want to give up one of these players.
Players such as Paul Puopolo, Will Langford, Taylor Duryea, Billy Hartung and Brendan Whitecross, amongst others, are sure to be available, but would represent little value.
Floating a player such as Luke Breust would offer an attractive bargaining chip but the small forward vetoed any trade attempts during the 2016 Jaeger O’Meara dealings. The club re-signed him on a long term basis earlier this year and has showed many statements of support throughout this season in how valued he is at the club.
Looking at past evidence, the club would be wise to address its pace issues like when they drafted Isaac Smith who had, at the time, been burning it up for North Ballarat in the VFL. The VFL has many untapped gems such as Nelson Lane at Box Hill, for example. He is the type of player the Club should look at drafting with a later pick, or picking up through the rookie draft. Scouring the WAFL and SANFL is another good course of action. Young defender Harrison Petty from Norwood is one to focus on at the draft table.
Two interesting names linked to the club are Devon Smith from GWS and Rory Thompson from the Suns. The mention of Smith seems to indicate that Puopolo is on borrowed time. Smith would offer a younger replacement in the small forward role and has the benefit of also being a competent midfielder. Both could swap places in a direct exchange however Hawthorn would have to add something to seal the deal. It seems both clubs are interested in these respective players.
Thompson’s link to the club is intriguing due to the abundance of tall backs we already have. It could mean one of the trio of Frawley, Brand or Heatherley being traded. A more tantalising prospect is the club looking to reinvent Thompson as a contested marking forward. The failure of Ty Vickery in his first year at the club makes this a possibility.
Away from trades, or drafting, free agency is the club’s best option.
Tom Rockliff should be a potential target. He is a player that would add much needed depth to the club’s midfield as well as reinforcing the team’s leadership. The new leadership group of Jarryd Roughead as a first year Captain supported by deputies Liam Shiels and Isaac Smith were largely uninspiring and disappointing throughout the 2017 season. The retirement of Luke Hodge brings this into direct focus. No one can come near to replacing the lauded ‘General’. But Rockliff would represent a similar presence that Russell Greene did for the club after joining from St. Kilda in 1980. Like Greene, Rockliff offers the club a player with real versatility – one that is able to operate with similar distinction in either a defensive or attacking role.
Acquiring the ex Captain of Brisbane and previous All-Australian would come about merely by meeting Rockliff’s financial demands, which going on the touted $300,000 that the Lions offered him would not be at great expense.