Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Will Hawthorn's Midfield Rise in 2017?

Hawthorn's prospects in 2017 will live or die by its midfield

Putting a focus on 'Generation Next', commandeered by recruits Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara to fill the void left by Club Legends Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis departure from the Club. Brad Hill leaving, also cannot be understated with the huge chasm to fill with his pace and line-breaking ability.

Let us flick some magnets on the board for the new look set up:

Tom Mitchell along with the evergreen Liam Shiels will be the lynchpins inside with Isaac Smith one of the most devastating outside threats in the AFL. Jaeger O'Meara is likely to have a slow start to his Hawthorn career as he regains confidence after a cruel knee injury but will rise to be one of the best in the AFL. A rare combination of a bull on the inside and scything entity on the outside.

Shaun Burgoyne in his bursts in the guts reminds all of why he was compared favourably to Chris Judd at his peak making it very tempting to employ 'Silk' in a more permanent role. The move would add some needed experience to the new look group after losing 666 games of know how in last year's trade period.

After these, all others are speculative entities pointing to a worrying lack of depth considering most good teams have a rotating midfield corps of 6-8 trusted permanent entities. Incorporating a first and second choice in square brigade with similar on the outside  The absence of this puts the emphasis on improvement from within the incumbent group to inspire a renaissance.

A similar challenge was faced in the wake of the 2012 GF loss where the one-dimensional nature of a midfield lacking options was pivotal in the defeat. Brett Ratten, added in its wake in the role as midfield coach was defining in the threepeat of Flags that followed with the strings he added to the bows of the incumbents as well as strengthening the midfield group by the rotating of burst players.

The focus needs to be on redressing the contested ball winning malaise where the Hawks were obliterated last season finishing 16th in the AFL. It fractured the dream of a history equalling four-peat with the threat of the forward line neutered by slow and imprecise entry into the 50 along with the defence left vulnerable and often exploited due to the opposition constantly winning first use of the ball.

Jarryd Roughead potentially has a key role to play.

The irony of his absence last year was the main focus on his meaning to the forward line paying little respect to how crucial he was in his midfield role. His size smashing open space for smaller teammates to operate in allowing prominence in winning the contested ball coupled with his own natural ability to win the contested footy. With bigger midfielders dominating the AFL highlighted by the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Patrick Cripps and Nat Fyfe a shift in his role to 70/30 in the midfield in preference to forward could see the new Hawthorn skipper be a similar force.

Exiting the Last Chance Saloon 

There is real acid on Jono O'Rourke, Will Langford and Billy Hartung with patience running out quick on the trio.

If the preseason where he has dazzled is anything to go by, O'Rourke will be a revelation.

Langford is a clash between his respected contested ability and his average foot skills, leading to turnovers in an era where this is footballing suicide. Because of this, playing him on the ball becomes too much of a risk meaning his future might be in another role. It would be interesting to see how he would go in a similar role to what Liam Picken plays at the Dogs.

Last but not least Hartung, who has a huge part to play in replacing the outside run lost by Brad Hill's defection to Fremantle. He has similar traits of Hill as a line breaker with a huge tank, but after 2016 where he came up short in a few key areas, the jury is out on him making it.

The fact the Club floated him in last year's trade period points to confidence being low in him as well as suggesting a plan b if he does come up short.

Ricky Henderson's capture from the Crows could be with an eye on him playing as a big wingman.

The Youth

Only Kieran Lovell stands out as a young mid one can pin real hopes on. A beautiful natural footballer with such natural instincts to know where to go to win the pill, great skills when in possession and real pace to break away from stoppages.

Fans will suggest Dan Howe, but, it seems apparent he is being groomed as a rebounding half back.

Smokeys could be Teia Miles and Kade Stewart.

Stewart has potential in the midfield but it is likely he will be groomed as a small forward but Miles offers up a few tantalising possibilities. Playing as a wingman where his pace would be useful or replacing Taylor Duryea in the back pocket to allow 'Doc' to be added to the inside midfield.


In Mssrs Clarko and Co, we trust!

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