MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20: Grant Birchall of the Hawks in action during a Hawthorn Hawks AFL press conference and training session at Waverley Park on January 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

In the lead up to the 2017 season, we will be assessing each club’s list and naming our best 22 for round one. Working our way up the ladder; following the analysis of Adelaide, the next cab off the rank is Hawthorn.

Ins: James Cousins, Oliver Hanrahan, Ricky Henderson, Mitchell Lewis, Tom Mitchell, Harry Morrison, Conor Nash, Jaeger O’Meara, Ty Vickery.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 05: Tom Mitchell of the hawks handballs during a Hawthorn Hawks AFL pre-season training session at Waverley Park on December 5, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Outs: Bradley Hill, Jordan Lewis, Sam Mitchell, Matt Spangher, Shem-Kalvin TatupuLachlan Langford, Angus Litherland, Jermaine Miller-Lewis, Zac Webster, Alex Woodward.

Zero Hanger 2017 ladder prediction: 6th

It was a disappointing end to a promising season for Hawthorn. If Isaac Smith’s shot doesn’t fade late they would have been in a preliminary final at the MCG and who know’s what could have happened. Instead they bundle out of the finals in straight sets to an inspired Bulldogs side. Little did we know that would be the last time we would see club legends Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in Hawthorn colours.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 16: Sam Mitchell of the Hawks in action ahead of Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs during the 2016 AFL Second Semi Final match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Western Bulldogs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 16, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

It seems a pretty straightforward decision, getting rid of two players entering their final years and replacing them with a 22 and 23 year-old about to hit the prime of their careers. But it was the cold, calculating manner in which Alastair Clarkson orchestrated the exit of two of the club’s four-time premiership players, and presumably his friends, that showed how serious the Hawks are about staying relevant in this league. Four premierships in nine years clearly is not enough.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 20: Jaeger O’Meara of the Hawks in action during a Hawthorn Hawks AFL press conference and training session at Waverley Park on January 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Strengths

With the return of Jarryd Roughead and the recruitment of Tyrone Vickery, Hawthorn has an incredibly imposing forward line. Roughead seems to be getting fitter by the day and by all reports should line up at full forward come round one. Vickery fills that back-up ruckman role, while Jack Gunston does the work up the ground. Cyril Rioli, Luke Bruest, Paul Puopolo and James Sicily are all terrific, and efficient forwards. Unfortunately, all that depth means Ryan Schoenmakers can’t quite crack my 22.

It’s a rejuvenated midfield and while the departures of Mitchell and Lewis will hurt in the short-term, in the long-term Hawthorn will reap the benefits. Initially the word was O’Meara might not play until mid-way through the season, but in typical Hawthorn style we then saw him boot three goals in the clubs intra-club match last week. O’Meara has declared himself ready for the JLT Community Series, he looks incredibly fit and ready to star in this side. Tom Mitchell averaged 27.9 disposals as the fourth-choice midfielder at Sydney last year, he will step up and dominate as the Hawks number one.

Weaknesses

The departure of Mitchell and Lewis will obviously hurt, however, Hawthorn was already starting to show signs of a lack depth in the midfield. During the semi-final against the Bulldogs, the Hawks were completely dominated in the guts, losing the contested possession count by 50. Outside of their best 22, there aren’t a lot of midfielders demanding to be picked. Will Langford has fallen away since his stellar 2014 season and Jonathan O’Rourke has only played nine games since moving to the club. Aside from those two, Hawthorn do not have a recognised midfielder who has played more than three games. It hurt the Hawks last season when the injuries began to mount and it could hurt again.

Projected Hawthorn 2017 round one best 22:

FB: Taylor Duryea, James Frawley, Josh Gibson

HB: Grant Birchall, Ben Stratton, Shaun Burgoyne

C: Isaac Smith, Luke Hodge, Jaeger O’Meara

HF: Cyril Rioli, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust

FF: James Sicily, Jarryd Roughead, Paul Puopolo

FOL: Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, Liam Shiels

I/C: Tyrone Vickery, Billy Hartung, Brendan Whitecross, Ricky Henderson

EMG: Ryan Schoenmakers, Tim O’Brien, Kieran Lovell