What went right?
Tom Mitchell had another blinder of the season after his move from the Swans at the end of the 2016 season. With Jaeger O’Meara, a fellow recruit from that offseason, fit and firing the Hawks were able to return to the finals with a top four finish.
The Hawks made James Worpel work for his debut, but they were well and truly rewarded by the Rising Star nominee by seasons end. The Worpedo might have been the most obvious, but five other players under 23 playing 15 games or more, he was far from the only young Hawk to get much needed experience in 2018.
There was also the small matter of beating Essendon and Geelong in back to back nai-biters in Rounds 20 & 21. In the home and away rounds it doesn’t get much better than that.
What went wrong?
A second straight sets exit from the finals in three years was a bitter pill for a team that had done an awful lot right in 2018. When it came to the business end of the season the Hawks lack of pace and their stagnant game style were shown up by faster more aggressive teams.
The form of Luke Breust (54 goals) and Jack Gunston (51), belied the Hawks poor delivery of the ball inside forward 50. A lack of marking power in the forward arc also saw too many scoring opportunities missed.
Brownlow Medal. Tick.
Leigh Matthews Trophy. Tick.
Record for most possessions in a game and season. Tick.
If you have a case more compelling than this one mounted by Tom Mitchell to be Hawthorn’s standout player I would love to hear it. There are some who like to question how damaging the 25-year-old actually is but this ignores the importance he has within the Hawthorn machine.
Sydney 10.14 (74) def by
Hawthorn 12.11 (83)
It was a simple equation but no easy feat when Hawthorn travelled to the SCG for the final round of the AFL season. Win and a double chance in the finals would be theirs, lose and they would face a cut-throat elimination final.
The Swans, without Buddy Franklin, led for most of the night and Hawthorn faced a 12-point deficit early in the last quarter. It would be a pair of their experienced stars who would lift them, with Paul Puopolo and Jarryd Roughead prominent in the five goal to two finish that would see the Hawks prevail by nine points.
What do they need to improve?
It took a great deal of Alastair Clarkson magic to deliver a top four finish for the Hawks in 2018. It will require a bit of tinkering to the plan however if they are to improve further in 2019. While measured and deliberate ball use served them well in the Home and Away rounds, it didn’t stand up in September.
With this in mind the Hawks will need to generate more run in the midfield if they are to compete with the elite teams. Despite the slow and steady movement of the ball from defence to attack, this was not present in their forward entries. An over reliance on the long bomb into forward fifty made life difficult for the forwards and cannot continue.
Despite straight sets in finals, Hawthorn overachieved this year by making top Four. With exciting recruits and more experienced youngsters, Hawks will hope to continue on their way up.
Thanks for taking the time to read our take on Hawthorn’s 2018 season. If you like what you read could you do us a favour and like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and let us know what you think we got right. (Or wrong!)