Karl Amon will be an integral part of the Hawks next season, but will the club’s other off-season recruits start in Round 1? We reveal their predicted best 23.
Hawthorn is in the midst of a significant and potentially painful rebuilding as they invest heavily in youth to become a force again.
Following Sam Mitchell’s first year as senior coach, the Hawks have taken another step back to move forward following an offseason exodus of senior stars.
It has left an experience gap at the Hawks and how long it takes before the club sees the fruits of its rebuild will depend on how many of the club’s up-and-coming players can make a leap forward in 2023.
Coaches: Sam Mitchell
What happened in 2022?
Hawthorn launched his rebuild under Mitchell after the controversy surrounding the club’s chaotic managerial handover by four-time Premiership manager Alastair Clarkson. Prioritizing bloody youth, the Hawks adopted a more offensive style of play under Mitchell, which revealed eight debutants in 2022.
The Hawks probably exceeded expectations in Mitchell’s first year in office, finishing 13th with eight wins of the season. But it was the off-season where the real action happened. After fruitless buy-ins during last year’s trading period, the Hawks are saying goodbye to three veteran stars this year.
Three-time Premier League forward Jack Gunston joined the Brisbane Lions, 2018 Brownlow medalist Tom Mitchell was snapped up by Collingwood and fellow midfielder Jaeger O’Meara moved west to join Fremantle.
The Hawks welcomed former Port Adelaide wingman Karl Amon, rising ruckman Lloyd Meek (Fremantle) and young midfielder Cooper Stephens (Geelong) in their place.
The Hawks are also saying goodbye to their captain and ruckman Ben McEvoy and will usher in a new skipper for the 2023 season, with key defender James Sicily being the favorite to take on the role.
Where will they end in 2023?
If expectations weren’t high for the Hawks for the 2022 season, they could arguably be lower for 2023. After unloading three stars up front in addition to the retirements of McEvoy and Liam Shiels, who has since reversed his decision and reunited with Clarkson at Arden St, the Hawks have said goodbye to more than 1000 experience games.
Luke Breust is the only over-30 player on the list and the Hawks will field one of the youngest teams in the competition next year.
While wingman Karl Amon is a practical acquisition unless there is a dramatic improvement in some of the younger players on the roster, it does hint at a potential bottom-four finish for the Hawks next year.
Biggest improvement in 2022
Mitch Lewis, the future of the Hawks’ forward line, had the best season of his career in 2022. The 24-year-old netted a record 37 goals of his career and was named the club’s Most Improved Player in his Best and Fair awards that night.
Lewis established himself as the team’s No. 1 key forward, scoring two five-goal draws in Round 2 against Port Adelaide and Round 17 against Adelaide.
He finished second in goal for the club behind veteran Luke Breust but could have been well ahead had he not missed seven games through injury.
He averaged 2.5 elite goals per game, and his GPAs (4.5) and goal accuracy (66.1 percent) were also above average. Following the departure of Premiership striker Gunston to the Lions, Lewis’ continued development will be even more critical for the Hawks as they continue their rebuild under Mitchell.
Lewis secured his long-term future with the Hawks after signing a new four-year contract in June.
Changkuoth Jiath was a defensive revelation in a 2021 breakout season before being sidelined with a knee injury. Jiath’s athleticism and shot from the back quickly made him a fan favorite and one of the league’s most exciting up-and-coming talents.
He completed 2022 with 14 games, which was also hampered by injuries as his season ended prematurely in Round 20.
The 23-year-old electric defenseman, who excels at speed and flair, has the potential to break up games for the Hawks but needs more consistency in his game.
After two injury-hit seasons, Jiath can capitalize on a great preseason to get his game back up in 2023.
Heading into his second year as senior manager, club bosses are united in the four-time Premiership player’s vision of building the roster from scratch. Mitchell showed he was tactically smart last season with victories over eventual Premier Geelong and provisional finalists Brisbane Lions in the first half of the season, but his focus over the next two years will be player development and defining the characters from whom he believes can turn the club into a contender for the Premier League. In his second year as senior coach, Mitchell is getting the time he needs to realize his vision.
Who is in the final year of contract?
Chad Wingard, Connor MacDonald, Cooper Stephens, Dylan Moore, Emerson Jeka, Fergus Greene, Finn Maginness, Fionn O’Hara, Jacob Koschitzke, Jai Serong, James Blanck, James Worpel, Jarman Impey, Josh Ward, Lachlan Bramble, Lloyd Meek, Max Lynch, Ned Long, Ned Reeves, Sam Butler, Tyler Brockman, Will Day.
Outs from 2022
Jaeger O’Meara (Fremantle), Tom Mitchell (Collingwood), Jack Gunston (Brisbane Lions), Ben McEvoy (retired), Liam Shiels (North Melbourne), Jackson Callow (delisted), Connor Downie (delisted delisted), Daniel Howe (delisted), Tom Phillips (delisted), Kyle Hartigan (delisted)
Ins for 2023
Act: Lloyd Meek (Fremantle), Cooper Stephens (Geelong), Karl Amon (Port Adelaide)
Draft: Cameron Mackenzie (7 pick), Joshua Weddle (18 pick), Henry Hustwaite (37 pick), Jack O’Sullivan (46 pick), Bailey MacDonald (51 pick), Josh Bennetts (B category rookie)
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Originally published as Where’s Your AFL Club at: More Growing Pains for the Young Hawthorn List
https://www.codesports.com.au/afl/where-does-your-afl-club-sit-more-growing-pains-ahead-for-young-hawthorn-list/news-story/e26b5695d23a712b849797f9fdad1480?nk=c334a3fd0b120c9df71787dbd6047ef9-1672736471 AFL 2022: Hawthorn contracts, 2023 ladder prediction, best 22nd