The Hawks are as resilient as blue-chip stocks, and won’t be far away after missing the finals last year for the first time since 2009. Remember, they won ten and drew one of their last 18 games in 2017, after losing the first four.
Josh Gibson and Luke Hodge are, of course, huge losses, and Shaun Burgoyne (right) will be 35, but we think coach Clarkson has demonstrated conclusively that he’s no dill, and that canny list management is one of his many skills. There’s a young breed emerging that might suddenly arrive in 2018. Hawthorn has been so damned good that, even debilitated and dislocated, they were able to play great, strategic football and land knockout punches. They needed a pause to get to the next level. Jarryd Roughead and the returning Cyril Rioli will give them the strikepower up front that they lacked even while they were competitive. The Cyzzler will find fine form after his break.
The very promising Jarman Impey, from Port Adelaide, might prove a revelation as a destructive small forward after a few seasons as a shut-down backman. Last season, Ryan Burton and Tom Mitchell impressed. This year Jaegar O’Meara needs to get fit enough. If it all falls into place, suddenly the Hawks have finals football written all over them.
Improbable scenario: Burgoyne will completely defy the years and have one of his best seasons ever, weaving the new personnel seamlessly into the side. If he does, Hawthorn scrapes into the finals, or better.