The Hawks recorded just their second bottom-six finish in over 15 years, sitting in 14th position at the end of the 2021 season. Here's how we reviewed their year.
Season Finish: 14th.
Record: 7 wins, 13 losses, two draws.
2021 Season snapshot
The Hawks then mostly struggled between Rounds 2-13, but were able to finish off their season on a four-game unbeaten run; overcoming the Lions and Bulldogs in dominant displays at UTAS Stadium, toppling the Magpies at the MCG and finishing gridlocked with the Tigers in club stalwart Shaun Burgoyne's final AFL game.
Star player: Tom Mitchell
The Brownlow medallist was his usual self this season, winning the ball in the trenches time after time and setting up his teammates in scoring positions.
Mitchell played in all 22 games in 2021 and averaged a very characteristic 34.3 disposals, topping it off by winning his third Peter Crimmins Medal.
Mitchell's best outing came against Collingwood at the MCG, where he notched 44 possessions, 10 marks and a goal in the 19-point win.
Speculation surrounded a potential Mitchell move this trade period, however the 28-year-old will remain at Waverley Park in 2022.
Breakout player: Changkuoth Jiath
Jiath turned heads with his line-breaking speed off half-back, and his disposal use was just as impressive.
Jiath's best performance came in a surprise win against the Swans at the SCG, during which he collected 28 disposals and four marks in a 38-point win.
The 22-year-old played 16 games in 2021 before succumbing to a PCL injury in Round 17 against Fremantle, which cut his break-out season short.
Establishing a defensive and physical identity: Three wins and a draw across the final month of the season is more than what Sam Mitchell would have asked for heading into his first season as senior coach of the Hawks.
The young Hawks displayed their defensive prowess in that final month, keeping their opposition to an average of 69.5 points per game.
Hawthorn adopted a physical identity as its form improved in the second half of the year, led by the scrappy and brilliant Mitchell, hard-hitting midfielder James Worpel and tackling machine Jai Newcombe.
Youngsters impress heading into 2022: The aforementioned Jiath and Newcombe, as well as the likes of Will Day, Lachlan Bramble, Jacob Koschitzke, Denver Grainger-Barras and Tyler Brockman, all showed positive flashes throughout the season and provide a ton of hope for Hawks fans heading into 2022 and beyond.
With Sam Mitchell openly in favour of finding talent through the draft, the Hawks are all about youth as they begin the storied club's new era.
Messy coaching succession plan: The senior coaching hand-over between Alastair Clarkson and Mitchell was reportedly not well received by some members of the playing group.
Whispers of friction between players and the coaching staff arose, with the younger players especially, who supposedly wanted the change to happen sooner for the benefit of their careers.
A lot of unnecessary focus was pointed at the Hawks before and after the decision to implement a succession plan, which arguably negatively affected the playing group.
'Fire sale' distractions: The Hawks proved to be lethal at the trade table this off-season, which was first ignited by president Jeff Kennett's letter to members hinting they should brace for a busy exchange window.
Luckily for Hawks fans and players, the club were quiet as the deadline day drew to a close, however the lack of moves didn't see some looking too settled.
The Hawks were reportedly open to moving on Luke Bruest to the Giants in hope of gaining high-end draft picks, while the likes of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O'Meara, Jack Gunston and Chad Wingard had their futures at the club heavily speculated.
While the fire sale was extinguished, the off-season distraction could leave some contemplating their position under Sam Mitchell in 2022.
Season Grade: C+
Coming into the 2021 season, most expected it would be a rebuilding year for the Hawks. Clarkson would obviously have liked to see his side win more games throughout the start and middle portions of the year, but would surely have been pleased with his young brigade's finish to the season.
With Sam Mitchell now officially at the helm heading into next year, a new era at the Hawthorn Football Club begins.