2018 Team Review – Hawthorn

Written by Thommo on February 9 2018

The Hawks are in a ‘list-regeneration’ phase at the moment (nobody would be caught dead rebuilding these days). In the absence of injury-stricken senior players in 2017 a number of forwards were re-programmed as defenders in Gunston, Sicily, Hardwick and Burton and could offer some value this season if they keep their defensive roles. Meanwhile there is clearly room for another midfielder or two in the side, particularly if No-knees O’Meara fails to fire again.

Along with all of these youngsters coming through, there are a few experienced players returning from injury at a significant discount. They are hardly Supercoach Royalty, but Cyril Rioli and Grant Birchall are cheap enough to be considered if they can return to their best again.

When you add the Hawks’ Round 12 bye to these possible bargains, it looks like the Brown and Gold should be super-relevant in 2018.

Defenders

Can Birchall return to the glory days?

Feeling Lucky: After a shocking broken leg in his draft year, Ryan Burton (460,200) slid from a prospective top draft pick to the Hawks at pick 19. He was in the recovery group for most of 2016 yet Clarko still picked him to debut late in the year and even selected him for the qualifying final against the Cats. With a better fitness base in 2017, Burto was finally able to strut his stuff, averaging 83.7 points from 20 games and finishing second in the Rising Star. Despite playing as a forward in juniors he adjusted quickly to playing in defence, showing he suits the Clarko game plan where he can play at both ends of the ground. Racking up 4 tonnes and 6 scores in the 90s from an average of 21 possessions and 6 marks, Burton isn’t afraid to grab an intercept mark and could seriously break out in his third year. The only query will be how the return of Birchall, Frawley and Stratton affects his output.

Money Maker: He has had a preseason setback, but at his massively discounted price, Grant Birchall ($277,100) must be at least considered if he plays in the preseason. We supercoaches love to criticize Birch for his safe 80-90 average but this season that looks to be good enough after he averaged only 63 points from just 5 matches in 2017. David Mirra ($102,400) is yet to play a match but as a mature age recruit from Box Hill, he knows the Hawks’ system and could easily slot into the backline early in 2018.

Midfielders

Lock and Load: He offers little value in 2018, but Tom Mitchell ($653,500) should be popular as he is so reliable and has the favourable Round 12 bye. It is hard to turn your nose up at 22 matches at a 119 point average!

Feeling Lucky: No player deserves to be under the ‘feeling lucky’ category more than Jaeger O’Meara ($315,800) who looked like he could be a smart selection early in the 2017 but instead proved to be a bust with 63.8 points from 6 matches. Not that anyone was really surprised! And as all really annoying players do, he finished well with 91 SC points on his return in Round 23 care of 25 possessions and 11 tackles. So can the Hawks’ famous medical department get O’Meara right for 2018 or will he prove just another pick-tease?

A pity his knees don’t look like his guns…

The other player that would require nuts of steel to select is Daniel Howe ($404,100) who is both too expensive and too defensive to select in our midfields. I know you are probably getting sick of my ‘gut feels’ but I see Howe turning into a Scooter Selwood or Stephen Coniglio type of midfielder who can tag but still average in excess of 95 points per match. Would I select him this season though? No!

Money Maker: In case you have forgotten, or don’t care, Jono O’Rourke ($212,200) was a number 2 draft pick in 2012 but he has struggled to find form and fitness at GWS or Hawthorn. A hamstring injury prevented him from featuring at AFL level and when he played at VFL he was far from impressive. There are free midfield spots at Hawthorn but I can’t see him earning any of them.

The player who should be getting games in the midfield is Kieran Lovell ($174,800), who was a statistical beast in the style of Sam Mitchell as a junior. A shoulder injury limited him to just 3 VFL matches in 2017 but he can rack up the touches when allowed free reign. His only limitation apart from injury is his kicking which has been a very un-Sam Mitchell sub-50% at VFL level.

From the rookie-priced fresh meat department, James Worpell ($117,300) and Dylan Moore ($117,300) look the most likely to play early matches. Worpell has the body size and inside game the Hawks are after although he was neither a prolific ball winner nor an accurate kick in the TAC cup or U18 championships last year. Moore was a junior footy gun who ranked the 7th most Champion Data points in the TAC cup in 2017 but slid badly on draft night. He is only slight of build but is elite for endurance already so watch him closely in the preseason.

Ruck

Lock and Load: Not this year folks! When Ceglar tore his knee anterior cruciate ligament the smart Supercoaches jumped on Big Boy McEvoy and reaped a sizable increase in his SC output. However with Ceglar back, expect a drop-off in McEvoy’s average in 2018.

Feeling Lucky: Jonathan Ceglar ($266,500) is cheap but probably doesn’t have the ceiling required to really earn you the big bucks. This is mostly due to his poor hit-out to advantage rating and could lead to him being usurped by Marc Pittonet.

It’s pronounced Pitt-o-net in case you cared.

Money Maker: Yes, entering his fourth year, Marc Pittonet ($129,700) is finally reaching the time where he will produce consistent football which could see him push Ceglar out of the team. Like Ceglar, he too needs to improve his ruck work but he was the second best VFL ruckman in 2017 and could hit his straps this season. Bench cover perhaps?

Forward

Feeling Lucky: As a Def-For swing man, James Sicily ($402,600) could be a handy selection for our teams. He only averaged 73.3 points from 19 games in 2017 but what has interested Supercoaches was his final 10 games of the year playing across half back when he averaged 91.4 points from 10 matches. This included an injury effected 46 points and a 25 point effort in Round 22 when he struggled to cope with niggling from Carlton’s Jed Lamp, giving away 7 free kicks. The question is: With the return of Stratton, Frawley and Birchall, does he continue as a defender? The early mail from a Ben Stratton interview is that he will remain down back.

Let’s hope we see more of this in 2018!

Speaking of luck and bargains, how cheap is Cyril Rioli ($317,400) this season? This is a forward who averaged between 90 and 99 points for 7 straight season between 2010 and 2016! He had a strong 2017 preseason but copped a knock in Round 1 which caused a couple of down weeks and then he struggled to recapture his best form. Just when he started to improve he injured his hip in Round 6 and then his knee in Round 8, ending his year prematurely. This culminated in a 64.1 point average from 7 matches. With illness in his family, Cyril has returned to training late in the 2018 preseason but if he plays preseason matches, he is worth a gander or two.

And finally, if you want to be different, Jack Gunston ($474,800) could be the forward for you. As a forward from Rounds 1-14 Gunston pushed up the ground a great deal and only kicked 17 goals causing his average to drop to 79.9 points per match compared to 92 and 97 the preceding two years. He was switched into defence in Round 16 and liked what he saw there, averaging 97.6 from the final 8 matches. In those 8 matches he recorded 24 possessions and 7 marks per match and his excellent ball use could see him remain there as a replacement for Hodge or Gibson. Just a word of caution: While Ben Stratton said he would have trouble kicking Sicily out of the backline, he also indicated that Gunston was likely to return to the forward line in 2018.

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23 thoughts on “2018 Team Review – Hawthorn”

  1. Gunstan has said (AFL site) that he would be back in the forward line as he doesn’t have a defensive bone in his body.
    However, seen as the hawks should have an improved backline, it might give the forwards a chance.

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    1. Cheers Brad. I was unhappy to hear Stratton say Gunston was returning forward (I missed the Gunston interview). He’d make such a great half-back sweeper.

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  2. Fantastic summary. I can’t help feeling that the Hawks may be a little “irrelevant” this year given the afore-mentioned list generation. The exception is of course Mitchell as their only gun mid, and Worpel / Moore as the cows. Could be slim pickings for Supercoaches this year, which is a shame given their bye.

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    1. Worpel for sure. Also, given Jaeger played without knee strapping in the intraclub I still feel he may be a much better risk than last year.

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  3. Wouldn’t write off Big Boy just yet. If Hawks stick with Tim O’Brien as ruck relief Cegs might not get his spot back

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    1. I prefer a single ruckman but Clarko likes 2. The only reason Big Boy played alone in 2017 was because Vickery was such a failure. I reckon he’ll ruck Pittonet and/or Cegs too often to risk McEvoy. Only my opinion though.

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  4. Great write up Thommo!

    My spies tell me Worpel is finding plenty of midfield ball in the Hawks Intra Club so he is a big watch in the JLT series.

    Sicily is playing down back so he could be a sneaky POD. Just quietly whacked him into F3 today after Thommo’s stats for his SC scores in the last 10 games down back.

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      1. Sicily looks promising as a defender but you have to pick him as a keeper. If he gets around that 90 point mark he’s close to a top 10 defender but quite. And he’d only have made you 50-60k, so he’s far from a cash cow.

        For me he’s still a No, think I will look at Luke McDonald instead.

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  5. Fair enough Thommo. It would not be SC pre season unless there was a change ot 2 made everyday or 2.

    Not relevant to this post , but good to see in the Lions intraclub match that Christensen is playing.

    No Starcevich though.

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  6. Is Pittonet really pronounced |pɪtəʊnɛt|? I always thought it would be |pɪtəʊneɪ| (pitt-oh-nay). The name is Belgian, where they speak French and Flemish. It would definitely be the latter pronunciation in French; Google Translate doesn’t have Flemish, but it does have Dutch, of which Flemish is a dialect, and Google Translate seems to think that the Dutch would also use the latter pronunciation.

    Still, it’s his name, so if he says it’s pitt-oh-net, I guess it’s pitt-oh-net.

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    1. I asked him. If my memory serves me correctly, he said he’s Italian and that’s how his family pronounced it. He was asked by a commentator, I can’t remember who, and the commentator said he was wrong so they all use the French ending.

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