Recap of last season

A season that had more downs than ups, Hawthorn won two of 13 games in a stretch from Round 3 to Round 16, undoing its season in 2022 to finish 13th with an 8-14 record at the end of the year. However, the Hawks were still largely in the contests that they ended up losing.

It was former Hawthorn captain and four-time premiership player Sam Mitchell's first season in charge of an AFL side after a succession plan of four-time premiership-winning coach Alastair Clarkson's choice to stand aside of the club.

Defender James Sicily won the Peter Crimmins Medal as Hawthorn's best and fairest, while Luke Breust lead the club's goalkicking for the fourth time in the last five seasons, kicking 40 goals in 2022.

How they can improve

Hawthorn's work in the midfield will need to improve to get anywhere near competing well in games and swinging a few more results the team's way in 2023. Last season, the Hawks were last in the league for clearances (715) and the top two clearance-winners for the side, Jaeger O'Meara (107) and Tom Mitchell (106) have departed.

It'll be left to Jai Newcombe (85) to front up in the middle of the ground now and require the likes of Connor Nash and Dylan Moore to step up to have a good chance of getting first use and moving forward.

The ruck stocks at Hawthorn are plentiful so it's a training drill that should be looked at throughout the season to utilise the full effect of tap-downs to midfielders and clearing the ball from contested spaces.

List changes

In: Karl Amon (free agent, Port Adelaide), Josh Bennetts (category B rookie), Fergus Greene (delisted free agent, Box Hill), Henry Hustwaite (draft, pick 37), Bailey Macdonald (draft, pick 51), Cam Mackenzie (draft, pick 7), Lloyd Meek (trade, Fremantle), Jack O'Sullivan (draft, pick 46), Cooper Stephens (trade, Geelong), Josh Weddle (draft, pick 18)

Out: Jackson Callow (delisted), Connor Downie (delisted), Jack Gunston (trade, Brisbane), Kyle Hartigan (delisted), Daniel Howe (delisted), Ben McEvoy (retired), Tom Mitchell (trade, Collingwood), Jaeger O'Meara (trade, Fremantle), Tom Phillips (delisted), Jack Saunders (delisted), Liam Shiels (retired)

Biggest strength

Mitchell came to the club last season as a man on a mission, to bring Hawthorn back to the heights of its success in the last decade and a half, and it's a similar story to how the team saw success in 2004 when Clarkson was brought in, and the likes of Luke Hodge, Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughhead, Jordan Lewis, and Mitchell himself. It set the club up for success, and these players were a massive part of it.

Melbourne did the same in 2014 when Paul Roos joined the club as its coach in a succession plan scenario, drafting the likes of Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver. Both teams bided their time and in the end, tasted glory on the last day in September.

The Hawks' strength lies in the possibility of this happening to this current crop. While the results mightn't go their way in the beginning, the experience will be invaluable to young players, and set them up for competition and everything involved in the sport at the top level.

The youth will be good for Hawthorn in the long term, and they have the capability to impress week-to-week, and show their skills from an early stage of their development onto bigger things.

Biggest weakness

In saying all of the above, the Hawks did lose 1181 games of experience from their four high-profile off-season departures, Jaeger O'Meara, Tom Mitchell, Jack Gunston, and Ben McEvoy.

It's hard to replace any one of these players, let alone all four. But, Hawthorn will have to adapt, and will be looking to as the rebuild is very much at square one.

Hawthorn's 2023 list has two players having played over 150 games - Breust (260 games) and Chad Wingard (204 games). The Hawks have the youngest list of the competition (22.8 years) and least experienced (41.5 games). 21 players on their list have only been at the club since 2019.

It could be a tough year for the Hawks as they do rebuild, and utilise players less experienced in the top flight. The younger crop of players will yield results in the long-term - and Hawks fans have that to look forward to, for now, the team looks to be in it for the long haul, and with that could come some less-than-heavenly results.

Rising star

Second-year midfielder Josh Ward should be set to benefit from a full season after playing 14 games across his debut season in 2022, and without Mitchell, the midfield as a whole should step up a notch, with Ward being a beneficiary of that also.

Last year, Ward received a Round 1 debut against Essendon and impressed with 13 disposals, three marks and two rebounds. He suffered a concussion in a VFL match which put him out of action for two months but returned for the Round 17 clash against Adelaide and played the remaining seven games.

Overall, Ward averaged 19.07 disposals, 3.79 marks, 2.93 tackles, and 2.29 inside 50s. He received a Rising Star nomination in Round 18 for a 34-disposal showing that included seven marks, five tackles, four rebounds, and five inside 50s against West Coast.


It'll be a year of steadied improvement for Hawthorn in 2023, with the injection of young talent benefiting from early gametime at an AFL level. However, with less experienced players to help guide the younger ones on the field, it will be a learning curve for many in all aspects of the game.

Mitchell has shown his leadership capabilities in the coach's box, and will be hoping to get a good showing from his players, to look towards an aim of being closer to a flag than what's thought to be possible currently.

Ladder Prediction: 14th

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