Hawthorn’s 16-point, round-12 loss to Gold Coast was sealed before a ball was even bounced with Luke Hodge being a late withdrawal from Saturday’s game. The growing list of absentees in Hawthorn’s line-up has left the team unbalanced, with too many youngsters who lack the required know-how and a lack of experienced players to guide them. Despite the loss, there were many positives to take out of this match. Chief among them was the first glimpse of a genuine embrace of a ‘rebuild’ by coach Alastair Clarkson with the long overdue shelving of his uncontested possession based game plan being replaced by a handball dominated strategy. This alteration afforded the team some much needed structure. Their quick movement in transition out of defence traversed through the opposition’s zones to facilitate an attack that has suffered for most of the season due to the dismal supply. Ultimately it failed due to the lack of execution by the players, both in terms of on-field skills and associated decision making. When players were pressured, they too easily diverted from the new strategy and undertook a defensive mindset by going back to self defeating sideways and backwards chipping rather than taking the game on. Sadly, when they did stay the course, too many times they were brought undone by dreadful execution going into the forward 50 or ill-conceived choices in possession. In the last quarter when their play did flow better the results were there to see and it nearly led to a come from behind win. The instant effect of this change in game plan (when adhered too) was the reinforced structure in the team, particularly forward where it has been dysfunctional for most of the season. It was no coincidence that Jack Gunston had his best game for the year, kicking 5 goals with his leading style of forward play finally given support with more urgent entry into attack. Gunston’s success was also helped by Clarkson playing him in attack rather than having him marooned and zoning off in defence or floating on the wing as has been the case for most of 2017. Gunston found a very capable forward partner in Tim O’Brien whose forward-role skills were a stand out alongside his 2nd and third efforts. Away from the focus on the coaches box, the game gave a good insight into ‘generation next.’ This was highlighted during the last quarter when Josh Gibson left the ground, stricken with a groin ailment. With the likelihood of Gibson, Luke Hodge and Shaun Burgoyne to retire at season’s end it was great to gain some clarity as to the state of the team’s defence in their absence. The Club needs to do all it can to coax Steven May, who dominated in defence for the Suns, to solidify our defence in the key post in partnership with James Frawley. If May re-signs with the Suns, the Club needs to divert its attention to recruiting Jake Lever from the Crows. While Josh Gibson’s absence provides the perfect opportunity for Kaiden Brand or Kurt Heatherley to assume a spot in the defensive line-up, there are doubts surrounding the merits of both of these players as key defenders at AFL level. If either May or Lever could be signed in a trade, it would leave the team with this back 6 line-up for 2018 and beyond: B: Stratton, Frawley, Hardwick HB: Birchall, May/Lever, Howe In solidifying the key defensive posts, it would free Ryan Burton to go into the midfield. This is an area that was once again badly exposed during this game with a huge discrepancy in contested possessions (144/113) and the clearances (42/27) being a key factor in the defeat. It was an eye opener how the team rose in the last quarter when Jarryd Roughead added some much needed support to Tom Mitchell in the midfield. Our recruiting personnel need to school themselves on the evidence and do everything in their power to add some more class to this department that is severely lacking.