The Hawks finally began to commit to their rebuild in 2021 as they struggled on field, finishing 14th with just seven wins. Alistair Clarkson left after a messy attempted succession plan, and Sam Mitchell now has a huge challenge to try to develop the Hawks list.
Jack Tobin will be previewing EVERY team in the lead up to the 2022 season, while PuntingInDanger and his crew will be back this year to give their betting tips on every game. Be sure to head to the AFL Tips page for regular updates!
Hawthorn Hawks Season Preview
In: Max Lynch (Collingwood), Josh Ward (Pick 7), Sam Butler (Pick 23), Connor MacDonald (Pick 26), Jai Serong (Pick 53)
Out: Jonathan Ceglar (Geelong), Tim O’Brien (Western Bulldogs)
The Hawks trade period was more about what they didn’t do, rather than what they did do. Sam Mitchell wanted to offload experienced trio Tom Mitchell, Luke Bruest and Chad Wingard in a bid to improve Hawthorn’s draft hand. However the trio didn’t want to leave Waverly, leaving Sam Mitchell in an awkward position with some of his best players heading into 2022. The Hawks picked up Max Lynch in a three team ruck swap, but the draft was where their attention was most focused, bringing in Josh Ward, Sam Butler and Connor MacDonald inside the top 26 picks. Giving Hawthorn a desperately needed boost of youth in their midfield stocks.
Hawthorn had been stubborn in refusing to rebuild post the 2016 season, which has severely hampered their last few seasons as they continually traded out first round picks despite being a mediocre side. Sam Mitchell has made it clear since taking over that he is going to invest in their youth, so there will be plenty of fresh faces in the Hawks best 22 this season.
With James Sciliy returning from injury the Hawks backline shapes up nicely. Kyle Hartigan, Jarman Impey, Changkuoth Jiath, Lachlan Bramble and Blake Hardwick give the Hawks great balance between defence and providing offense. The Hawks biggest concern is in their midfield and up forward. Despite having a star studded midfield on paper with the likes of Mitchell, O’Meara and Wingard, the Hawks only ranked 9th for clearances, 10th for inside 50’s and 12th for points for. The Hawks will be looking for the likes of Jai Newcombe, Finn Maginness, Ward and MacDonald to add some variety to what has been a one paced midfield for a few years.
The forwardline is looking bleak for the Hawks, with Luke Bruest the only Hawk to register 30 goals in 2021. With Jack Gunston coming off a back injury that limited him to just one game last season, it’s a major concern the amount of reliance that will be on the two veterans. Mitch Lewis and Jacob Koschitzke have shown glimpses, but lack any consistency that they can be relied on week in, week out.
Breakout Player: Jai Newcombe
After an outstanding VFL season under Sam Mitchell at Box Hill, Jai Newcombe was picked up by Hawthorn in the mid season draft in 2021. Newcombe averaged 23 disposals, 7 tackles and 5 marks per game in the VFL last year. At AFL level he averaged 10 disposals and 6.5 tackles from six games, but with Sam Mitchell in charge at Hawthorn this season, expect Newcombe to get plenty of more opportunities at AFL level as the Hawks look to rejuvenate their midfield.
What Do The Hawks Need To Do In 2022?
2022 is about getting games into their young players and establishing an identifiable brand under new coach Sam Mitchell. Hawthorn won three of their last four games in 2021 to make their final ladder position slightly more respectable, but they spent the majority of the season playing slow football that lacked any purpose or intent. Mitchell needs to get his side playing a style of football that gives them greater scope to be a genuine threat in attack. The Hawks failed to score 65 points in nine games last season, and only hit the 100 point mark in one game.
With the Hawks finally buying into the rebuild, there’s still some bottoming out to do as Sam Mitchell begins to implement a new game plan and push the youth movement. Tom Mitchell is still an elite midfielder but the talent on the Hawks list drops off dramatically after that, and they’re going to struggle to be competitive each week. The loss of arguably the greatest coach of all time is something that will take some adjusting to for Hawthorn. The Hawks are beginning to reap the consequences of irresponsible list management between 2017-2020, and it’s going to be a long year for Hawthorn.