MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24: Dylan Moore of the Hawks in action during the round 20 AFL match between Adelaide Crows and Hawthorn Hawks at Marvel Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

It's been a change of the guard at Waverley park over the off-season, with legendary head coach Alastair Clarkson leaving the club after 390 games and 17 years in the top job.

Favourite son and past player Sam Mitchell will take the reins in 2022 and beyond, inheriting a list that is in a rebuilding and transitional phase.

With expectations relatively low in terms of wins and ladder position, the Hawks will hope to establish a brand of footy under Mitchell with an eye to develop of some of their younger players.

The Hawks finished 2021 with a flurry, winning three of their final six games, including one over grand finalist the Western Bulldogs, and having two draws - one coming against eventual premier Melbourne.

Looking to continually improve, we take a look at how Hawthorn could shape up in season 2022.

Defenders

Hawthorn's back six will receive a major boost in 2022 with the return of James Sicily. The intercepting defender will return from an ACL injury sustained in 2020, adding some more flair and aerial support to what is shaping as an exciting rearguard.

Changkuoth Jiath will also return after missing the latter half of the 2021 season through injury. Pairing Jiath with the creative Will Day should give the Hawks a good rebounding duo coming out of defence.

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Day had another productive season last year, further building on the glimpses he showed in 2020. He will be looking to take his game to another level in 2022.

Versatile defender Denver Grainger-Barras will look to build on his first five games in 2021. The former number six draft pick showed glimpses of his talent throughout his rookie campaign and standing at 195cm tall, he will be looking to hold down a third tall role.

Kyle Hartigan and Sam Frost will likely hold down the two key posts for another year. Sam Mitchell will be hoping they can help develop and complement the young talent they are surrounded with.

Adding Blake Hardwick, Jack Scrimshaw and Daniel Howe to that mix, the Hawks have the foundations of their future last line.

Midfielders

Despite being a couple of seasons into a rebuild, the Hawks still have an experienced midfield brigade.

Led by 2018 Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell, the Hawks midfield has no shortage of talent or big bodies.

Captain Ben McEvoy will again lead the way in the ruck and aim to provide his talented midfield group with first looks out of the stoppages, while recruit Max Lynch and fellow tall Ned Reeves will also aid the ruck duties.

Despite the attention Mitchell receives, Jaeger O'Meara will be hoping to put together another strong season.

O'Meara had a fruitful 2021 season averaging 26.3 disposals through his 18 games. Experienced campaigner Liam Shiels is another veteran whose leadership will be important in 2022.

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James Worpel will likely see even more minutes in the Hawks' engine room, as he looks to try and reclaim his 2020 form which saw him win the Peter Crimmins Trophy as Hawthorn's best and fairest.

After crossing over from Collingwood 12 months ago, Tom Phillips will look to build on his first season at Waverley Park, while Jarman Impey may also see some time through the middle of the ground for the Hawks.

Draftee Josh Ward should be in the mix early in the season after the Hawks used Pick 7 to snare the classy midfielder in this year's draft.

Forwards

The Hawks boast an interesting mix of experience and youth inside the forward 50.

Triple premiership duo Luke Breust and Jack Gunston will be a welcome sight up forward for Hawks fans in 2022. A nagging back injury restricted Gunston to just one game in 2021 after undergoing surgery last year, with Hawthorn to be hopeful of his return in Round 1.

Dylan Moore put forward a breakout year in 2021 and was one of the real positives for the club last season.

The ever-exciting Chad Wingard will also spend time inside forward 50, bringing some x-factor and goal sense alongside Breust.

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Exciting young key forward duo Mitchell Lewis and Jacob Koschitzke will be given every opportunity to become the club's focal points up forward, hoping that they can form a formidable combination in the air.

Adding to this group are young talents Tyler Brockman, Emerson Jeka, Jai Newcombe and Harry Morrison, proving Sam Mitchell hasn't got a shortage of forward options in 2022.

Best 22

FB: Jack Scrimshaw, Kyle Hartigan, Changkuoth Jiath
HB: Will Day, Sam Frost, James Sicily
C: Jarman Impey, Jaeger O'Meara, Tom Phillips
HF: Jack Gunston, Mitchell Lewis, Chad Wingard
FF: Luke Breust, Jacob Koschitzke, Dylan Moore
FOLL: Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell, James Worpel
I/C: Denver Grainger-Barras, Liam Shiels, Blake Hardwick, Josh Ward

EMG: Tyler Brockman, Lachie Bramble, Ned Reeves, Emerson Jeka