A QUICK GLANCE AT 2010:
After a disastrous start, where the Hawks went 1-6, a seven-game winning streak through the middle of 2010 was enough to pull back some respectability and a finals berth. But they disappeared with barely a whimper, tossed out by Fremantle.
Which points to the conclusion that while, yes, the Hawks did improve on 2009, both seasons had plenty of similarities in that both promised so much but didn’t deliver. On paper, not much has changed since the Hawks won the premiership in 2008, so where is that magic and can they get it back?
The Hawks did have a history-making moment in 2010, with Travis Tuck the first player to strike out on the AFL’s drug policy, and like always, president Jeff Kennett proved a thoroughly entertaining distraction to the on-field stuff.
Luke Hodge, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin and Cyril Rioli are three of the best players in the game. But they’ve played pretty damn well in the past two years and it hasn’t exactly all happened. So let’s think about the rest of the team – in particular, the 2011 class of recycled players.
The Hawks love a second-hand ruckman – see Peter Everitt and Shaun Rehn. But David Hale hasn’t achieved anything like what those two had done before they arrived at the Hawks. Then the eye goes to Cameron Bruce, who just inherently looks wrong in brown and gold. Yes, good player, but surely he’s a bit old to be making a new start? Awkward. Kyle Cheney on the other hand seems like a good get. The Hawks’ defence is often slippery, brilliant when up and running but can get caught out – Cheney adds a bit more steel.
THREE MOST IMPORTANT GAMES IN 2011
Round 5 – v Geelong, Tuesday 26 April at the MCG.
A day game at the ‘G on a Tuesday? Who doesn’t love that? Then there is the fact that last year the clash between these two teams was epic. It’s also what should be the Hawks’ first real test of the season, after playing Adelaide, Melbourne, Richmond and West Coast in the first four rounds.
Round 15 – v Collingwood, Sunday 3 July at the MCG.
Hawthorn have a knack of knocking off the Pies, even when they are flying. And in a year where non-Collingwood fans are probably going to have to put up with a fair bit of pain, it will be nice to see them lose one.
Round 18 – v Melbourne, Sunday 24 July at the MCG.
It’s usually around this time the Hawks do something silly and lose to a team they aren’t supposed to, therefore kickstarting a dour run of form into the month before finals. Game looks ripe for the picking.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2011:
Who really knows what to expect given the enigma that is Hawthorn post-2008. It’s not even three years since the Hawks achieved what was seen as fairly impossible – knocking Geelong off its premiership podium – but it’s been a rollercoaster ride since then.
What could derail the Hawks is defence. Yes, it wasn’t too bad last year, but tall key position players seem to have disappeared down back. Maybe it’s because they had Campbell Brown, who played a foot higher than he actually was and didn’t need any, but now he’s gone all Gold Coast.
The questions are endless. Is Josh Gibson good enough? Will Ryan Schoenmakers be more composed? Are Grant Birchall, Stephen Gilman and Tom Murphy at that elite level yet? Oh, and then there is the ruck. C’mon down, David Hale.
The Hawks are a big-game team, which means there is bound to be a few hopeless losses to bottom-dwellers that generally screw-up tipsters. But they always come to play against Geelong, Collingwood and the Dogs. So if there is enough goals from Buddy and Jarryd Roughead, contested gets from Hodge and Sam Mitchell, a bit of magic from Rioli and a mature and composed defence, there is an argument to be made they will be up in that top-four come the end of the season.
And if they get there, anything is possible.
FINAL LADDER PREDICTION