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Hawks lose one Mitchell, but gain another

With Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell out for the season, assistant coach Sam Mitchell will have his work cut out working with their midfielders.

Hawks lose one Mitchell, but gain another

With Brownlow Medallist Tom Mitchell out for the season, assistant coach Sam Mitchell will have his work cut out working with their midfielders.

TOM MITCHELL of the Hawks in action during the 2018 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia.
TOM MITCHELL of the Hawks in action during the 2018 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Collingwood Magpies at the MCG in Melbourne, Australia. Picture:Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images

Hawthorn's 2019 AFL season could be the tale of their two Mitchells.

Rarely has one injury impacted on a team's prospects more starkly than the freak broken leg that felled Tom Mitchell in January.


"That same incident would happen 100 times every week and you'd never see that again," Hawks football manager Graham Wright said of Mitchell's setback at training.

It has put the reigning Brownlow Medallist out for the season and left a gaping hole in their midfield.

So the onus will be on former Hawthorn premiership captain Sam Mitchell, already an invaluable acquisition for Alastair Clarkson's coaching staff, to help replacements fill the void.

As an assistant coach, Mitchell earned massive plaudits for his work with the West Coast midfield last season on the way to their premiership.

The Eagles thrived at the pointy end of the year despite missing Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff.

There will be a lot of factors deciding how Hawthorn cope this year without Tom Mitchell - but the work that Sam Mitchell does with their midfield group, led by Jaeger O'Meara, will be prominent among them.

Few pundits have the Hawks in the top eight, but what was the collective thinking before Tom Mitchell's demise on January 11?

True, Hawthorn had bowed out of last year's finals in straight sets.

Nevertheless, their post-dynasty slump had only lasted one year and they roared back into the top eight despite the shock retirement of Cyril Rioli.

Harry Morrison and James Worpel earned Rising Star nominations, while James Sicily would have made the All-Australian team had he not suffered a wrist injury.

Tom Scully is a risk, given his ongoing recovery from injury, but how much more dangerous will the Hawks look with the former GWS star and Isaac Smith running amok on either wing?

They have also recruited star utility Chad Wingard from Port Adelaide.

Wright points out that Mitchell's injury happened in January - not March - giving them plenty of time to absorb the blow and adjust their plans accordingly.

"Losing a Brownlow Medallist, it's not a great thing," Wright admitted.

"But the one thing out of it is we've had a fair bit of time to digest it and guys are able to move on and get ready to play."

Their forward set-up will be interesting, with Sicily and Jack Gunston able to play forward or back to effect.

As Wright notes, if the Hawks can go into attack consistently, they generally find a way to score.

Overall, the Hawks football boss is a realistic optimist about this season.

Asked if they can make the top four again, he said: "Potentally, if everything went well, but certainly the (final) top four from last year and GWS are going to make that pretty hard.

"You're really disappointed with how (last season) ended - we just felt we'd worked really hard during the year and got ourselves into a position to finish top four, which invariably gives you the best chance to make the grand final.

"But we've also seen that we were able to put ourselves in that position after not making the finals the previous year, with a really changed group of players."

HAWTHORN

Coach: Alastair Clarkson

Captain: Ben Stratton

Last five years: 1-1-5-12-5

Premierships: 13 (1961, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988-89, 1991, 2008, 2013-15).

Key five: Jaeger O'Meara, James Sicily, Chad Wingard, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust.

One to watch: James Worpel. With Tom Mitchell out for the season, the Hawks desperately need younger midfielders such as Worpel to develop in a hurry. After struggling initially last season, Worpel had a strong end to the year and earned a Rising Star nomination..

Ins: Will Golds (Oakleigh U18), Damon Greaves (East Perth), Jacob Koschitzke (Murray U18), Darren Minchington (St Kilda), Tim Mohr (GWS), Jack Scrimshaw (Gold Coast), Tom Scully (GWS), Mathew Walker (Murray U18), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide).

Outs: Ryan Burton (Port Adelaide), Taylor Duryea (Western Bulldogs), Kurt Heatherley (delisted), Kieran Lovell (delisted), Jonathan O'Rourke (delisted), Cyril Rioli (retired), Ty Vickery (retired), Brendan Whitecross (delisted), Dallas Willsmore (delisted)

Best line-up:

B: Kaiden Brand, James Frawley, Blake Hardwick

HB: Ben Stratton, James Sicily, Ricky Henderson

C: Isaac Smith, Jaeger O'Meara, Tom Scully

HF: Harry Morrison, Jack Gunston, Jarman Impey

F: Luke Breust, Jarryd Roughead, Paul Puopolo

R: Ben McEvoy, Chad Wingard, Liam Shiels

I: Daniel Howe, James Worpel, Shaun Burgoyne, Conor Nash

Predicted finish: 11th

AAP


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