As the sun sets on the potential for a historic fourth straight premiership, Hawthorn now have to seriously evaluate their list and direction in manner not needed in nearly ten years.
No one can, nor will they doubt the juggernaut that Hawthorn have been over their premiership run and the years preceding it. Their champion players became superstars, they drafted with great foresight and traded with ruthless aggression, all amounting to the success they have had to this date.
To recover from the loss of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin as if it was nothing is in itself a feat of pure genius. Guided by Alistair Clarkson, a repeated trust in the game plan paid off and brought the AFL community a dynasty like Brisbane had created in the early 2000’s and the Hawthorn side of the 1980’s had previously. However, now, as the chance at the historic four-peat passes them by, we are able to see their efforts for what they were, magnificent, but we now also see their future for what it is, questionable.
Of course, casting doubt over a team that has won three premierships in a row is an odd proposition, but, what is noticeable is that the gap between their best and the best of the other teams around them, has gotten far shorter and the output from their champion players, is not as great as it once was. So, they must look to the trade period and be aggressive, there are four players available who would help solve their issues and these four players could all be prized away from their teams with relatively little to no loss.
Perhaps the most naturally skilled young player the AFL has seen in the past five years, Jaeger O’Meara’s experience in the competition has been personally frugal, albeit brief. A veritable bulldozer on the inside of the contest, O’Meara possess immense strength to break the packs and create space.
Also blessed with elite foot skills, he can kick off his right and his left foot. A fantastic decision maker with a calm and composed footy brain beyond his years, he will undoubtedly be a star. However, as he is under contract for season 2017, a trade will be sought, made easier by his nomination of Hawthorn for his preferred club next season.
Gold Coast will certainly demand a player and a pick for the West Australian, and don’t be at all surprised if they demand two players and a pick. Look for young flyer Billy Hartung and pick 16 to be the main targets in this trade, and maybe even Brendan Whitecross. Seemingly a big price to play for a player who at this stage of his career has been all potential, but his potential is that large, that Hawthorn cannot not make this trade. O’Meara oozes class and skill and is the perfect person to replace all the midfield talent on its way out in the coming years.
A big bruising midfielder who can impact the game on the inside, as well go forward and contribute on the scoreboard he is arguably the biggest steal in this off-season. At just 23 years old, he still has upwards of ten years left in his career and with that, ten years of being a big influence on the success of which ever club he plays with next season.
Linked with moves to Carlton, North Melbourne, Melbourne, Essendon and Hawthorn, along with extending his stay with Sydney, there is no shortage of demand for the hard-nosed midfielder. A complete player who will only get better with the addition of games to his already 49 game career, he will have a long career playing forward of the ball. For Hawthorn, he could easily replace the output of a Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell. Whilst not possessing the same foot skills of Mitchell, his hard edge and manic determination to get the ball makes up for it.
With 28 goals to his name, he can also be charged with changing the dynamic of a game with a stint in the forward line similar to an Alex Fasolo for Collingwood or Patrick Dangerfield as he did time and again for Adelaide. Being a free agent, he will come at a steal and will instantly improve the quality of the aging midfield which will be under the microscope next season, if managed, with O’Meara, Mitchel could anchor the midfield for the next eight to ten years as Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge have before him.
A strong bodied, lead up forward with a genuine eye for goal who has seen his career stagnate at Richmond, Tyrone Vickery is seemingly the perfect candidate for a trade to Hawthorn and to see his fortunes change. In a similar boat to the likes of Brian Lake and Josh Gibson before him, Vickery has shown that he belongs in this league, but he hasn’t shown it often enough, and like Lake and Gibson, at Hawthorn, he can. With 158 goals to his 119 game career, he can certainly contribute as any key forward should, but, in comparison to others, he isn’t quite measuring up.
As Hawthorn search for a readymade replacement for the output and size of Jarryd Roughead, who’s return date is still unknown, Vickery fits the Hawthorn mould to a tee. If required, he can also pinch hit through the ruck and in the defence, which, given that Josh Gibson does not have long left in his career and Ben McEvoy has had recent injury issues, he could be the perfect fit, but this deal will cost the Hawks.
Taken with pick #8, Richmond will want a fair remuneration, most likely their highest pick, which could cause issues with the O’Meara deal, plus a player. What could save all parties is a three way deal between Richmond, Gold Coast and Hawthorn which would involve O’Meara and fellow want away Dion Prestia, Vickery and extra picks.
Taking Lachie Hansen would, to some seem to be a bit of a left field selection, but the experienced utility would give Alistair Clarkson flexibility like few other players on his list. Capable of playing across all lines, Hansen has throughout his career plugged holes all throughout North Melbourne’s often patched up defence. He can play on smalls and talls, he can rebound hard off the half back line and distribute smoothly. He can also play as a big bodied midfielder and a lead up ‘Third tall’ forward.
Hansen would provide flexibility to the level that a fit Chance Bateman and Stuart Dew did during the 2008 Premiership run. Another experience player coming off contract, more due to his injury history than anything, he is a gamble for Hawthorn, but being so low risk, it’s one worth taking, but with North Melbourne looking to plug the leak of experience they’ve already lost, they could find a way to make things difficult.
As it stands, O’Meara looks to be the only ‘certainty’ to arrive, of course the deal is still to be done, but Hawthorn has a happy knack for getting these types of deals done. If they can take that knack into the other three, things could be righted, quickly.