They dominated the competition for three straight years and overcame a dismal start to 2017 to narrowly miss out on finals football but SEN Afternoons host Andy Maher believes the Hawks are a big chance to take out the 2018 premiership.
“They can easily make the eight, so much so that I wouldn’t be overly surprised if Hawthorn won the flag this year,” Maher said.
Despite a mini roster overhaul over the last 24 months, the Hawks remain one of the most potent sides in the competition, and Maher believes should their stars stay fit, there’s no reason why they can’t claim their fourth flag in six seasons.
“What if they have a good run with injury? What if their forward line collectively has an outstanding year? What if Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo, they all play most of the season?
“Ben McEvoy, who was in the All-Australian 40 last year, what if he has another year like last year and Jaeger O’Meara gets to where we think O’Meara can be?
“Then they get solid seasons again from their starting midfielders Tom Mitchell, Isaac Smith, Liam Shiels, Ryan Burton and Daniel Howe, who I reckon they are keen to throw into the middle. They have Jarman Impey who did some stoppage clearance work for them the other night and signs are really positive.
“James Frawley has to be back to close to All-Australian form… back to where he was two to four years ago. What if James Sicily continues to develop as a defender and Grant Birchall and Ben Stratton get back to somewhere near their best?
“Shaun Burgoyne is the best 35-year-old bloke in the competition. They can use him wherever they want.
“If all of that falls in to place, how far can they go?”
“What we’re asking him to do is push himself forward and don’t succumb to the pressures of seniority. Don’t say ‘I’m not going to go in to a centre square because it should be Tom Mitchell or Cyril Rioli in there.
“We recognise he’s got some significant strength around his speed and raw power and we want to see that in the forward line, midfield and when we need it, in the back end. He’s played all those positions but because he has bowed to seniority too much, that’s why he has been held back as a B or C-grade player.
“If he gets that exposure, confidence in himself, belief and impact in the manner we’d like, then he can become an A-grade player for us.”