Malthouse: How Clarko must go about rebuild

It's been a while since Hawthorn was in this position.

The Hawks' worst result in 15 completed seasons under Alastair Clarkson was 14th in his first year, 2005. Then 12th in 2017. Right now, the threepeat of 2013, '14 and '15 seems like a lifetime ago.

At 52, having coached 366 games including 10 finals series, Clarkson faces a rebuild.

What type of rebuild will be up to Hawthorn and its list manager, but with the considerable control Clarkson holds over the club, his fingerprints will be all over it.

With one of the oldest lists in the league, the Hawks could go for a slow rebuild, where they go to the draft and free agency, while retaining a number of veterans.

They could have a total clean-out and trade down to get better picks in the draft, for a faster turnaround.

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Alastair Clarkson will have to decide how he goes about his rebuild. Picture: Sarah Reed
Alastair Clarkson will have to decide how he goes about his rebuild. Picture: Sarah Reed


Or they could make minimal change and see if they can weather the storm.

The last option would be a mistake for Hawthorn.

I have a feeling Clarkson is like a vintage car collector. The Hawks have some wonderful, loyal servants - one or two of them champions, a few of them premiership players - but it's time to let go of them to give the club more picks in the early draft.

Remember we don't yet know the AFL's new list size and salary cap, but we are led to believe they will be greatly reduced, so this will hamper the ability to trade players out unless they still hold genuine value.

Hawthorn's veterans have provided cameos this season and that can't be sustained, but it has some good young players to build a reasonable side around.

So perhaps the best option will be a combination of trading down for draft picks and trading out.

The Hawks have gone to other clubs regularly and been very successful at it, securing the likes of Shaun Burgoyne (Port Adelaide), Jonathon Ceglar (Collingwood), James Frawley (Melbourne), Sam Frost (Melbourne), Jack Gunston (Adelaide), Ricky Henderson (Adelaide), Jarman Impey (Port Adelaide), Ben McEvoy (St Kilda), Tom Mitchell (Sydney), Jaeger O'Meara (Gold Coast), Jonathon Patton (GWS), Jack Scrimshaw (Gold Coast), Tom Scully (GWS), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide).

But Hawthorn doesn't look like going anywhere next year and may struggle to challenge for a final-eight berth, so enticing players over now will be more difficult.

James Sicily is Hawthorn's best player, but an ACL injury will keep him sidelined for most of next season. That may mean that Frawley or Ben Stratton remain on the list to cover for his absence.

James Frawley will help fill the void of James Sicily. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
James Frawley will help fill the void of James Sicily. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

James Worpel is another important player, but he played better when Tom Mitchell was out of the team last year.

There's a very even group in Gunston, Luke Breust, Isaac Smith, Scully and Liam Shiels. Depending how far Hawthorn wants to go in topping up its list, these players would hold high value in a trade for a first or second round pick. But they shouldn't trade all of them.

Similarly, Ceglar has been outstanding for the Hawks as a ruckman, first and backup, and could easily fill that role at another club.

Unfortunately, I think time's up for Paul Puopolo, who is averaging just 8.4 disposals a game; and Henderson, who is no longer consistently reliable.

Time could also be up for Burgoyne, who at almost 38 is well down on output, but his contract extension gives him the chance to prove the doubters wrong.

While Hawthorn needs a more sustained team effort, when it clicks it can still play good football and that's the danger for the Bulldogs today.

In contrast to the Hawks, the Bulldogs have a relatively young side and you can see where they are going, but they are not in the same league as the big boys yet due to some obvious flaws in their structure.


Shaun Burgoyne has signed a one-year extension. Picture: Michael Klein
Shaun Burgoyne has signed a one-year extension. Picture: Michael Klein


I used to have a coach who said, "Football is simple." Get the tap at the centre bounce, deliver to the forward and kick a goal. Oh if only it was that easy!

At the Bulldogs, Tim English taps to Bailey Smith, who is shepherded by Marcus Bontempelli, who kicks to Aaron Naughton, who marks and kicks a goal.

That there is the core of the Bulldogs' future.

But there are still holes in their game. The Bulldogs are mauled by bigger forwards and need another key back to support Alex Keath, because neither Zaine Cordy or Ryan Gardner are quite quick enough or strong enough to go up against the best forwards in the comp.

The Dogs certainly need another key forward to keep the pressure off Naughton.

This should be Josh Bruce or Josh Schache but they haven't yet been up to the task.

He's had more support from Mitch Wallis who has been fantastic but isn't big enough in the air to provide a continual challenge.

It seems the Bulldogs can't make up their minds on Matthew Suckling, Sam Lloyd and Tory Dickson at half forward, so I wouldn't be surprised if they are not at the club next year.

In the centre English could do with assistance when he comes up against the likes of Nic Naitanui, Brodie Grundy, and Max Gawn. He is going to be a fine ruckman, but right now he would benefit from a similar set up to St Kilda with Rowan Marshall and Paddy Ryder.


Tim English needs support while he develops, says Mick Malthouse. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Tim English needs support while he develops, says Mick Malthouse. Picture: Matt Roberts/Getty Images


They Dogs are also lacking another clean, one-touch midfielder with speed. Tom Liberatore is a clearance machine. Jack Macrae, Bontempelli, Smith, and Bailey Williams are high possession getters with extreme talent. Bontempelli has grown in leadership with the captaincy role while maintaining his high standards.

The Bulldogs are generally competitive, but a lack of maturity in some games due to the young age of the team, has meant they can't beat clubs above them on the ladder. One big player at both ends of the ground, some backup in the ruck, and another midfielder could be all they need for some major improvement next season.

They may need to look at free agency and trading to get what they need.

While the Bulldogs are playing for a top eight spot and Hawthorn is playing for pride, there could be more heat in this contest after Luke Beveridge rightfully called out Clarkson on the holding the ball rule change demands.

Clarkson took on City Hall, and with so much pull, they buckled an rewrote the rule book. It was only a few weeks later that they realised they'd been taken for a ride and caused total and utter confusion. I hope they've learnt their lesson not to change any rules mid-season.

Maybe Clarkson is deflecting in taking on John Longmire, Beveridge, Damien Hardwick, and Tom Papley, or maybe he's just reached the end of his tether.

Either way, today is going to be a very interesting match, and on for young and old.




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Originally published as Malthouse: How Clarko must go about rebuild