The reigning premiers have form when it comes to targeting players for premierships – read Stuart Dew and Brian Lake – but usually these recruits come with heavy baggage and a one to three year expiry date. This off-season Alastair Clarkson and his recruiting team have targeted a much more sustainable, long term player to aid them in not just the 2014 title defence, but many years to come.
With Max Bailey calling time after reaching the pinnacle of football last year, the Hawks were desperate for a ruckman to support the ageing David Hale, and also to allow Jarryd Roughead to play most of the year forward in lieu of the departing Lance Franklin. That ruckman came in the form of 2007 number nine draft pick Ben McEvoy from St Kilda, whom most people were shocked was even on the trade radar in the first place with the Saints ruck stocks as bare as they come.
St Kilda’s loss was Hawthorn’s gain though. A bargain buy, the 200 cm and 100 kg McEvoy’s services were secured in exchange for small forward/midfielder Shane Savage – a type of player of which Hawthorn has many – and a downgrade of picks, from 17 and 19 to 24 and 29.
The 24-year-old began 2013 in red-hot form, not dropping below 20 hit outs until round seven where he gathered 20 disposals. Ultimately, he was slowly worn down by, in his words, an “unsustainable” workload at the Saints, finishing the year off with a string of lesser performances.
McEvoy provides the Hawks with exactly what they needed; a top quality number one ruckman who can also be a target up forward – even if he isn’t a renowned finisher, with only six goals last season. Hawthorn is also a much better fit for McEvoy, as Hale will provide plenty of support and allow him the much needed rest he was deprived of last year.
With this in mind, there is no reason that McEvoy, a man just entering the prime of his career, can’t replicate his early form of last year, or even better it. This season, with Hale’s support, he won’t be ran into the ground to the detriment of his health and performance. Roughead will also benefit from the freedom to play forward, and is quite capable of kicking 100 goals in his own right this season if all goes his way.
Hawthorn has traded smartly, filling the ‘missing link’ in their team within months and with minimal cost to their structures or future. A player the quality and youth of Ben McEvoy will add even more cream to the top of the team’s already long list of stars, and there is no reason why the brown and gold cannot build on their success of last year and create a dynasty to rival that of the Lions to begin the millennium. 2008 was a premiership before their time, but 2013 will be the start of something special, and Ben McEvoy will play an integral role.