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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Hawthorn

Tom Mitchell (left) and Jaeger O’Meara (centre). Hawthorn need from O’Meara the sort of performance Mitchell delivered this year. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Hawthorn

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 10 wins, 11 losses, 1 draw (12th)

Jarman Impey (Port Adelaide), James Worpel (Geelong Falcons), Dylan Moore (Eastern Ranges), Jackson Ross (Eastern Ranges), Harrison Jones (Murray Bushrangers), David Mirra (Box Hill), Changkuoth Jiath (Ethiopia)

Luke Hodge (Brisbane), Luke Surman (retired), Josh Gibson (retired), Jack Fitzpatrick (retired), Bill Hartung (delisted/North Melbourne), Kade Stewart (delisted), Ty Vickery (retired)

Not much doubt about this one. Not the “ins” as such, though Port Adelaide’s Jarman Impey is a pretty handy pick-up. It’s the quality of the “returns” off what was a crippling injury list in 2017. Grant Birchall (five), Cyril Rioli (seven), Ben Stratton and James Frawley (eight each) played just 28 games between them of a possible 88, three of them keys to the defence, the other arguably the most dynamic player in the game when on-song. They will be huge bonuses to the Hawks next year. The other is a perennial, the coach. Alastair Clarkson has now presided over several reshapes of both list and gameplan during his four-premiership reign, and his effort in having the Hawks at worst pretty competitive towards the end of last season despite the losses of personnel is not to be underestimated. Hawthorn’s draw isn’t bad, either, ranked seventh-best by Footyology, and featuring only four road trips (excluding Launceston), none in Adelaide and only one in Perth.

Midfield depth and pace are areas in which Hawthorn could well struggle in 2018. As good as was Tom Mitchell’s debut in Hawk colours, he has a lot less support around him than the likes of Sam Mitchell did in the halcyon days. A fit Jaeger O’Meara, obviously, could be a huge plus, but beyond that, it’s Liam Shiels, some pinch-hitting from the ageless Shaun Burgoyne and not a lot else in terms of instantly recognisable names. That throws a huge challenge to the likes of Will Langford and traditionally more “outside” players like Impey and Isaac Smith. Those two represent much of the pace factor for the Hawks, too, which is why Rioli and even Paul Puopolo might find themselves spending more and more time in the middle. The forward set-up remains in a state of flux also, Puopolo out of sorts last year, Jack Gunston being used in defence, as was James Sicily, and Tim O’Brien promising, but still finding his way. The Hawks finished the year ranked only 14th for points scored, their lowest for many a year.

Hardly an up-and-comer, but a fit Jaeger O’Meara would make the biggest difference to Hawthorn of any player on the list. Just six senior games in three years for Gold Coast then the Hawks is a sorry tale, and he managed just three in his new colours before knee troubles flared. But his return for the final two games was a rare ray of light in an ordinary season for the Hawk fans. O’Meara was solid enough against Carlton, but excelled in the final round against the Western Bulldogs with 25 disposals and 11 tackles in a Hawk win. And that’s something of which we’re likely to see a lot more in 2018 provided the brilliant and strong-bodied midfield star stays on the park.

Paul Puopolo has been a wonderful and often unsung servant for the Hawks for a good even seasons now, but 2017 was far from his finest, and at a time when Hawthorn needed him more than ever. Just turned 30 and coming into the final year of a contract, the pressure is going to be right on the nuggety little man, his spot increasingly under threat from Taylor Duryea, who did a more than reasonable job as a defensive small forward in his absence when Puopolo missed half-a-dozen games injured. Puopolo’s tackline pressure can still be a handy weapon, but he needs to get his hands on the football more and hit the scoreboard harder than he did in 2017 if he is to survive the Hawks’ transition into a new era.

B: Grant Birchall, James Frawley, Ben Stratton
HB: Ryan Burton, James Sicily, Shaun Burgoyne
C: Isaac Smith, Tom Mitchell, Jarman Impey
HF: Luke Breust, Tim O’Brien, Cyril Rioli
F: Paul Puopolo, Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston
Foll: Ben McEvoy, Jaeger O’Meara, Liam Shiels
Inter: Blake Hardwick, Kaiden Brand, Taylor Duryea, Daniel Howe
Emerg: Will Langford, Ryan Schoenmakers, Jonathon Ceglar

The Hawks need more pace. Impey can provide plenty of it and is a very good pick-up after the damaging loss of Brad Hill at the end of 2016. The clutch of injured senior defenders return to give Hawthorn a far more imposing defence than it had at any stage of last season, also allowing Gunston to return to his natural home of the forward line. Ceglar, whilst not immediately in the starting 22, is a pretty handy emergency, and besides his ruck work is capable of wielding an influence up forward if required.

  1. Can’t help wonder if everyone is fit, if Brichall doesn’t play more upfield/midfield then he has in the past? Big body, can move and use the ball. Did a bit of it last preseason. With the players that showed they can play down back, especially Sicily, wonder if that frees him for another role?
    Just a thought.

  2. Yeserday’s heroes. Bottom four in 2018.

  3. If O’Meara can get fit, Burton to hopefully make the move to the midfield & the likes of Howe, Morrison etc can take the next step I see improvement in the Hawks midfield. I’m realistic & know it’s not a top 4 team however there is a lot of experience & talent. I believe like Ess in 2016 that had to play a lot of kids, Haw kids will have benifited from the experience last yr & some snr players will find themselves at Box Hill as the Hawks finish 6th-8th.

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