Alastair Clarkson has been many things across 376 games and 16 seasons, but he has never been boring.

Not while he was punching MCG coaches box walls.

Or running half-naked around Manuka Oval before the snow fell.

Or threatening all manner of deeds as he advised Matthew Lloyd to retire past-match in 2009.

Or being saved from a VFL coaching stint by Sam Mitchell's tackle on Shane Tuck.

For the first time in forever, Clarkson is coaching a nondescript, vanilla, utterly boring football team.

He knows it, and so do the fans.


Watch the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Every match of every round Live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >


It's what happens when you have a heap of kids who are not quite ready or injured, and a team with a handful of list cloggers to save you from complete embarrassment.

The Hawks are in list purgatory, consigned to this challenging period after doing what all great sides tend to do - top up to eke out one more flag in a dynasty.

They know exactly where they are at: thrilled with the development of Jacob Koschitzke, James Worpel, Tyler Brockman, Changkuouth Jiath, Jack Scrimshaw and hoping Mitch Lewis, Connor Downie, Denver Grainger-Barras, Finn Maginness and Emerson Jeka get there.

On Sunday the Hawks' three most dynamic players were out across all lines of the field - James Sicily (ACL), Jaeger O'Meara and Jack Gunston.

On top of that Will Day and Grainger-Barras were injured and first-year kids Brockman and Downie were playing VFL.

In reality the Hawks are two more national drafts from having enough quality on their list to consider a flag tilt despite building the nucleus of an impressive back six that will take 40 more games to take shape.

Compare them to the Tigers.


In this year's draft Richmond has their own first-rounder (currently pick 11), Geelong's first-rounder (pick 14), St Kilda's second-rounder (pick 26), and their own second-rounder (pick 29).

So four picks within 20 plus exciting kids such as Maurice Rioli Jr, Shai Bolton, Noah Balta, Thomson Dow, Riley Collier-Dawkins and Callum Coleman-Jones.

Hawthorn has its own pick (No.2 overall after Round 9), its own second-rounder (pick 20) and Collingwood's second-rounder (pick 21).

So, how do the Hawks bridge the mammoth gap in talent quicker than the AFL system will normally allow?

Clarkson can't expect to hoodwink rival sides as he did in charging up the draft order and getting maximum compensation for the likes of Jon Hay, Nathan Thompson, Jade Rawlings, Trent Croad and Mark Williams.

If Clarkson is the greatest coaching mind the modern era has ever seen, what has he got for us?

What tricks in store does he have in store to expedite or fast-track the rebuild and sustain the fans while the rebuild occurs?


Hawthorn could use its ladder positioning by doing a trade deal with Collingwood that would play into the Magpies recruitment of Nick Daicos. Picture: Michael Klein
Hawthorn could use its ladder positioning by doing a trade deal with Collingwood that would play into the Magpies recruitment of Nick Daicos. Picture: Michael Klein

1.Consider splitting the first-round pick for two top-10 selections or even a trade with Collingwood if it secures pick 1

The Hawks need multiple early selections, not one star player.

They only need to look at Jon Patton's retirement as the No.1 overall pick to realise the first player called isn't always the best.

CEO Justin Reeves says they will take the selection, but Essendon has shown securing multiple top-10 picks can turbo charge a rebuild.

In an even draft, someone will value a top-three pick more than the Hawks, who just need talent.

Fox Footy's David King threw up an interesting conundrum over a beer on the weekend.

If North Melbourne does jump over the Hawks and they end up last, what would pick 1 be worth to the Pies in a trade?

Collingwood could take the best player other than Nick Daicos at pick 1, wait until the Hawks or Roos bid on Daicos soon after, and then match a bid.

It would take an inventive trade - Collingwood would need to offer players or future picks instead of 2021 picks to the Hawks given GWS has the Pies' first-rounder, but surely there is opportunity there.


2. Drag someone through the pre-season draft

Adelaide did it with GWS midfielder Jackson Hately last year and the season before it was Carlton with Jack Martin.

The traditional route to talent was almost abolished given the lack of interest in the pre-season draft, but suddenly it's back.

It might take putting a $1 million price tag on the first year of a long-term contract, as the Blues did for Martin.

But the Hawks have millions in cap space given the list transition and sudden retirements of Tom Scully and Jon Patton.



3. Warehouse James Sicily and take multiple mid-season draft picks

Sicily likely won't play anyway, but there will never be another mid-season draft like this, during which kids with no exposure in 2020 are available for clubs with list spots.

What good can come of Sicily playing a few late-season games compared to an extra pick that could turn into a 100-game player?


4. Consider Mitch Wallis as a free agent

Wallis's only priority is getting back into the Dogs' side, not considering rival overtures or being offered them yet.

But he provides leadership, versatility, goalkicking power, stoppage strength, and is only 28. Just because the Hawks are rebuilding, they don't have to go young at the exclusion of players who can give them 60-plus games of quality footy.


5. Don't rule out trades for your best players if rivals will give overs

Last year the club ruled out deals for senior players such as Jack Gunston, with the big four (Gunston, O'Meara, Mitchell, Wingard) all managed by Tom Petroro and told early on they were going nowhere.

Every team needs a balance of leadership and youth, but in hindsight it was the perfect time to trade for Gunston, who turns 30 in October.


6. Don't stop taking risks with adventurous trades

The Hawks were mighty unlucky with the Scully and Patton trades.

Scully, a bloke who lives and breathes footy, somehow fell out of love with the game.

And Patton, who kicked 45 goals as recently as 2017, brought down his own career because of his behaviour outside the club.

But both cost only future fourth-round picks.

The Hawks sniffed Collingwood's vulnerability over their cap space and secured Tom Phillips for only pick 55.

Keep attempting to rehabilitate broken-down players at the right price.

Keep shooting for the stars on rival players who can't get a sniff, such as Mabior Chol or Majak Daw or Mason Cox.


7. Find some mongrel

The Hawks didn't even go down swinging against West Coast.

Who is their Campbell Brown type, the player who typifies their unsociable Hawk DNA?

With Sicily out of the side, there is no one with some spark and spunk and in-your-face aggression.


8. Open up the club to the fans

The Hawks say it's not Clarkson's fault that they are a low-profile media club.

They often prefer to put news on their website, much more strategic than other more media-friendly rivals.

But they have so many great stories to tell, as they showed with recent profiles of Jiath in the Herald Sun and on Fox Footy.


9. Don't be afraid to keep pushing Sam Mitchell as a club spokesman

He might or might not be the next senior coach but he's amazing media talent and as the Box Hill coach he has exactly the kind of insight into the kids the fans want to hear about.

He will get questions about his aspirations, but he's smart enough to answer them.

His insights into the next wave of talent - their skillset, their growing pains, their upside - will be a critical information channel for fans eager to get on board with the rebuild.

Originally published as Nine ways Clarko can save 'Bore-thorn' list