The off-season trading of Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis painted a picture of 2017 being an end of an era for Hawthorn but there wouldn’t have been many who would have predicted how the year would play out. An 0 & 4 start and a series of heavy losses, including an 86-point defeat to the Gold Coast, was followed by a remarkable rejuvenation of the squad that saw Alastair Clarkson lead the team to the brink of the finals.
After their horrific start to the season, it took a remarkable mid-season change to turn things around. “If you’d asked me after 6 rounds I would probably been struggling for an answer as to where they were headed,” Sudi Chandrasekharan, AFL Editor at RealSport101.com, told The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav. “But credit to Clarkson and the coaching side they have done a really good job,” he said. It was a remarkable performance by Clarkson who yet again showed why he is considered perhaps the best coach of his generation as he turned the season around.
Injuries meant the Hawks had to take the field for most of the season without the likes of key defenders Ben Stratton and James Frawley, live wire forward Cyril Rioli and ruckman Jonathon Ceglar. A positive of this though was the development of the likes of Blake Hardwick, Ryan Burton and James Sicily who all stood up in the second half of the season to help drive the Hawks resurgence. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Clarkson had successfully rebuilt the list in the back half of the year.
Asked to nominate a player as Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest winner in 2017, Sudi Chandrasekharan, AFL Editor from RealSport101.com, had just one name, “Tom Mitchell, hands down”. It’s hard to argue with him with too, Mitchell was the AFL’s leading possession winner in 2017, hauls of 50 against Collingwood, 44 against Carlton and 43 against Geelong, seeing average nearly 36 touches a game for the year.
Chandrasekharan also had high praise for the season of Ben McEvoy. “Big Boy McEvoy’s season was a highlight,” he enthused. Career high season tallies in possessions, goals, tackles and one percenters illustrate that McEvoy took his game to the next level in 2017. “He really took the number one ruck role and the way he carries himself he has really taken the leadership role within the team.”
“The highlight for me was in the way we (Hawthorn) came back in the second half of the season,” Chandrasekharan told when asked for the best moment of the Hawks season, perhaps the biggest illustration of this turnaround was in Round 14. Sitting in 17th place after 13 Rounds, the Hawks weren’t given much hope in their visit to Adelaide to face the high flying Crows. In front of a raucous crowd 45,312, on the back of strong performances from Ryan Burton, Shaun Burgoyne, Grant Birchall and Tom Mitchell, the Hawks kicked eight goals to three in the second half to run out 14-point winners and breathe life into their season.
Round 23 saw the curtain drawn on Hawthorn’s seven consecutive years of finals action and on the career of one of its modern day greats. Luke Hodge was drafted to the club as part of the 2001 super draft that saw Chris Judd join West Coast and Luke Ball St Kilda. A fan favourite almost from the moment he walked in the doors at Glenferrie Oval, Hodge was a central player in the Hawks newest golden age. A two-time Norm Smith Medallist he shone brightest on the games greatest stage and he got plenty of opportunities in his 305-game career that saw him play 23 finals and win four premierships, three as captain. Hawthorn will be a much different team without the Number 15 marshalling the troops from the half back line.
After the glory days of the recent past it is hard to judge a Hawthorn season that ended in August as anything other than a fail. A proud club with a canny coach the early signs are promising that their stay amongst the ranks of the also rans will be a brief one, with the second half of the season seeing the Hawks come home with a wet sail. A rebuild on the run began with a number of talented youngsters given their chance to shine and there is nothing to suggest that the most dominant club of recent times wont be gain challenging for the main prize in quick time.
Check out The Pinch Hitters with Boz and Pav Podcast where the boys looked ahead to the finals and passed judgement on the Hawks and all the teams that have already begun planning for 2018.