It was a tumultuous 2021 for the Hawks, with a coaching handover agreement between Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell - who combined for four premierships as player and coach - going pear-shaped within weeks.
Mitchell, who led VFL affiliate Box Hill to an 8-2 record as senior coach in 2021, will be hoping the club can improve on last season’s 14th-placed finish, with a focus on developing youth sure to be a priority.
In: Max Lynch, Fionn O’Hara, Josh Ward, Sam Butler, Connor Macdonald, Jai Serong, Ned Long
Out: Shaun Burgoyne, Jon Patton, Tom Scully, James Cousins, Damon Greaves, Michael Hartley, Keegan Brooksby, Harrison Pepper, Tim O’Brien, Jonathon Ceglar, Ollie Hanrahan
Disposals - 3rd
Disposal Efficiency - 3rd
Clangers - 4th
Turnovers - 16th
Centre Clearances - 16th
Inside 50s - 15th
Star player: Tom Mitchell
The 2018 Brownlow Medallist returned to something near his best in 2021, averaging more disposals per game (34.27) than any other player in the competition. It was somewhat of a relief for Hawthorn and Mitchell alike, given he missed all of 2019 with a horrific leg break sustained in the pre-season and was solid yet unspectacular as he returned from the injury in 2020.
Some say Mitchell doesn’t hurt the opposition enough given how much of the footy he wins, but that’s a narrow-minded, if not lazy, view - Mitchell’s ability to feed his teammates and set-up the play is elite.
One to watch: Will Day
The #13 pick in the 2019 National Draft has had Hawthorn fans excited since he made his debut. The 189cm defender is tough yet classy with ball in hand, and is a player the Hawks can build their defence around for the next decade.
Injuries have seen Day limited to 11 and five matches in his first two seasons respectively, and Day is reportedly again being nursed through pre-season. However, if Day can get his body right and play close to a full season, he can prove himself as one of the hottest young prospects in the game.
Under pressure: Jack Gunston
There’s no doubting Gunston’s ability when he’s at his best. Standing at 193cm and with an ability to run all day and use the ball by foot, Gunston is a nightmare for opposition defenders to line up against - not to mention that he can play higher up the field on the wing, or pinch-hit in defence when required.
However, the three-time premiership star is now 30 and comes into 2022 having played just one match last season. There were reports in the off-season that both he and the club were open to him moving to a new home as the Sam Mitchell era begins, but none of that eventuated. If Gunston can get back to his best it will be as good as a new signing for Mitchell, but whether he can is the big question.
While many fans are still upset over the exit of legendary coach Alastair Clarkson, the fact that fellow legend Sam Mitchell steps into the hot-seat has somewhat softened the blow. As a Brownlow Medallist and five-time club best and fairest winner, Mitchell has plenty of goodwill with fans and enters the season under zero pressure.
The Hawks’ best was quite good in 2021, drawing with premiership winners Melbourne in Round 18 and defeating grand finalists the Western Bulldogs in Round 22, but their worst was awful, with 10+ goal drubbings at the hands of non-finals teams St Kilda and Fremantle.
Finishing 2021 with a 7-13 record, which remarkably came with two draws, the Hawks will obviously want to improve that in 2022. However, there’s an understanding that the Mitchell era is somewhat the beginning of a rebuild and fans will be happy to have something to look forward to in the future.
Five matches to watch
Round 1 vs. North Melbourne, MCG, Sunday 20 March
Round 5 vs. Geelong, MCG, Monday 18 April
Round 7 vs. Melbourne, MCG, Saturday 30 April
Round 8 vs. Essendon, Marvel Stadium, Saturday 7 May
Round 9 vs. Richmond, MCG, Saturday 14 May
All time games
- Michael Tuck - 426
- Leigh Matthews - 332
- Sam Mitchell - 307
- Luke Hodge - 305
- Shane Crawford - 305
All time goals
- Jason Dunstall - 1254
- Leigh Matthews - 915
- Peter Hudson - 727
- Michael Moncrieff - 629
- Lance Franklin - 580
MOST DISPOSALS: Tom Mitchell - 754
MOST TACKLES: Tom Mitchell - 105
MOST CLEARANCES: Jaeger O’Meara - 111
MOST MARKS: Jack Scrimshaw - 127
MOST GOALS: Luke Breust - 33