Hawthorn’s bold off-season moves have set him up for a “torturing” time ahead and a “tremendous challenge” for coach Sam Mitchell, according to Fox Footy pundits.
The departures of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara, Jack Gunston, Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels and Kyle Hartigan add up to 1,181 games of experience to leave a big leadership void on the Hawks roster as they embark on a rebuild complete.
That means six of Hawthorn’s 10 most experienced players in 2022 won’t be on their roster next year and leaves 31-year-old Luke Breust (260 games) as their most experienced player.
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After Breust, their next most experienced are Chad Wingard (204 games), Jarman Impey (150), Sam Frost (141), Blake Hardwick (124), recruit Karl Amon (124) and James Sicily (115), while none other Hawks only reached 100 games.
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“Look at this loss of experience…which practically commits them to a four- to six-win season next year. These guys who are gone are winning you games and they are leading the way Monday to Friday during the week,” Kangaroo two-time prime minister David King said on Trading day.
“We’ve seen Gunston win games with his own boot, Mitchell was a Brownlow medalist. The Hawthorn discussion will go in depth.
The moves come after Hawthorn’s failed attempts to trade its veteran players during last year’s trade window in Sam Mitchell’s first offseason at the helm.
It’s a stark contrast to the club’s roster management strategy under Mitchell’s predecessor and manager of the great Alastair Clarkson, which for several years prioritized recruiting players via trade and free agency over the repechage.
Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph said Mitchell was ‘unchecking everything Clarkson tried to build’ – highlighting how the Hawks initially gave up the Pick 14 to land Sydney’s Tom Mitchell and the Pick 10 and a second round to get O’Meara out of the Gold Coast.
Six years later and for Tom Mitchell they received two third-round picks from Collingwood and former first-rounder Cooper Stephens of Geelong, and for O’Meara they landed Fremantle ruckman Lloyd Meek and a future second round.
Horne-Francis wasn’t ‘ready for the fight’ | 01:48
“What this shows you is the extraordinary faith Hawthorn has in Sam Mitchell,” Ralph said.
“It could be three or five years of intense pain. The only thing he wants to do is win a fifth premiership – he doesn’t care if he finishes seventh or eighth.
“It will be torture. They’ll bring in young players and they’ll get there eventually, but it’s going to be tough. »
But King worries the Hawks have cut too hard and wonders how long the club would support Mitchell if they struggled hard.
“Every board supports the coach at this point, that’s the easy part. Yeah, purge those guys if you want, yeah, pick the picks you like,” King said.
“It’s 18 months later, we saw the pressure from David Noble almost instantly.
“I just hope Sam Mitchell didn’t serve too much in year two. You can do that in year one, I think you get a free shot in year one and find out what’s there and show the absolute bottom period .
“But can you make it the second year and still survive the next 18 months? It’s a huge challenge.
Ralph, however, believes Mitchell will have plenty of time to build his roster, pointing to how the club accelerated their coaching succession plan and paid Clarkson’s lucrative final year of his contract to trust his current boss.
“Sam Mitchell is the safest coach in the competition. They fired the greatest coach in modern history to bring in Sam Mitchell,” he said.
“I think he has an absolute swing for four years and then of course the pressure mounts.
“When you’re willing to pay Alastair Clarkson $900,000 not to coach your club, do you think they’re going to put that guy under pressure in the next two years?”