After a devastating finish to a fantastic season in 2012, the Hawks were looking for nothing less than a premiership when they arrived again in 2013. The pain and regret of what could have been in 2012 can be very difficult to overcome mentally, so Hawthorn knew the challenge ahead of them in 2013. They were fully aware that they needed to refocus, gather themselves and have a crack at their second premiership in six years. Keeping in mind the fact that Hawthorn lost the 2012 grand final as favourites; Bound For Glory predicted them to finish third on the ladder with West Coast the pick to take out the flag. In sheer contrast, West Coast had a year to forget not making the top eight. It was clear to Alastair Clarkson and the playing group prior to the season that after the misery of their loss to Sydney in 2012, a premiership in 2013 was the only way for redemption.
So with this goal of achieving the ultimate success, a determined group showed nothing less than a strong will and desire which allowed them to cabinet their second premiership in six years and remind the AFL of the talent that lies within Hawthorn’s list. Hawthorn rebounded from the shattering end to 2012 with a phenomenal year capped off with their 15-point win over Fremantle in the final weekend of September. This was the fourth time since 1950 that Hawthorn have bounced back from a grand final defeat the previous year to win it the next year, which is more than any other club in that period of time. Hawthorn were clearly the best side all year, finishing first on the ladder with only three losses, two of them being against Geelong who, at the time, were the monkey on their back. They were positioned on top of the ladder after round eight, and didn’t move from there for the rest of the season.
Plenty of positives came out of the season, which they will take into 2014. Since Hawthorn is a team with plenty of top players on the way out in a few years; including Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Brad Sewell and the already gone Lance Franklin, Hawthorn need to get games into their youngsters to ensure they remain a force to be reckoned with in the next five to 10 years. With that in mind, it was pleasing for them to have two rising star nominations (Jed Anderson and Brad Hill). These two along with the development of Taylor Duryea should provide the needed youth in Hawthorn’s squad.
Something that will no doubt please Alastair Clarkson and the coaching board was the spread of goal kickers throughout the season. It wasn’t long ago that Hawthorn was criticised for being too Lance Franklin central. In 2013, Hawthorn had four players kick 40 goals or more. Jarryd Roughead was the dominant force as he enjoyed an outstanding season, booting 68 goals in the home and away fixture to see him earn the Coleman Medal. With the departure of Franklin, Hawthorn will be confident knowing they have Roughead, Jack Gunston and Luke Breust all coming off big goal kicking seasons, and they will need to fire again in 2014 to fill the massive void left by the star #23.
The Kennett curse is something that has haunted Hawthorn ever since their 2008 grand final win over Geelong. Hawthorn finally ended their 11-game losing streak when they defeated the Cats in a thriller in the preliminary final.
The inclusion of Brian Lake for 2013 was an interesting risk as Lake seemed out of sorts late in his career at the Bulldogs. But a rejuvenated Lake played his role at full back very consistently the whole season. He was a key player in Hawthorn’s premiership, and his Norm Smith Medal capped off a great debut season for the Hawks.
Finally, it is quite satisfying for Hawthorn to think that they went through the whole of 2013 without one of the most damaging left foots in the game, Matt Suckling. Suckling was forced to watch from the sidelines after rupturing his ACL during the pre-season. The addition of Suckling for 2014 will add to Hawthorn’s precise kicking and will be a valuable player in their bid to defend their premiership.
When a side has won the premiership and only lost three games for the season, negative aspects are hard to find, however no team goes through the ‘perfect’ season. One glaring negative that appears is the circumstance of Cyril Rioli’s season. Despite all the talent he possesses, Rioli is often being reduced from his troublesome hamstring, which forced him to only play 13 games in 2013. Rioli played a full season in 2008, but since then he has only managed 20 games in a season once. His impact on games is vital to Hawthorn’s success, so he will be working overtime in pre-season so he can aim to play close to a full season in 2014.
Aside from this, Hawthorn’s only other main cause for concern is the lack of youngsters they have with experience. Despite the upside of Jed Anderson, Bradley Hill and Taylor Duryea, they don’t have much more rookie depth and with a lot of players edging towards the twilight of their career, Hawthorn need get more rookies game time so they are prepared at AFL level once they mature.
Key signings and departures
Hawthorn will be absolutely delighted to have picked up former St Kilda ruckman Ben McEvoy. McEvoy is an established ruckman and will slot straight into the number one ruck spot. The move came after Max Bailey retired due to his injury troubles.
The biggest news at the club was the expected decision from Lance Franklin to change clubs. It came as a massive shock that he chose the Swans, as it was thought to be GWS all along. Franklin is a big loss for the club, as the impact he can have on a game is one of the largest in the AFL. Buddy has booted 580 goals from 182 games, which highlights the importance of his departure. Xavier Ellis (free agency), Brent Guerra (retired), Michael Osborne (retired) and Shane Savage (traded) are all significant losses, and Hawthorn’s depth will be tested as they look to some of their youngsters to establish themselves as regular starters.
The main news out of Hawthorn’s draftees is the selection of Dayle Garlett with their first round pick. Garlett is a large risk given his history of suspensions and getting himself into trouble, however he does possess immense talent and excitement. Hawthorn’s other notable selection is talented midfielder Billy Hartung. His precise foot skills and along with a combination of aerobic power and endurance make him an exciting prospect and one that Hawthorn will be wanting to develop into a good player.
Overall grade: A+