Sam Mitchell doubles down on Hawthorn’s ruthless list strategy after brutal trading period

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell doesn’t shy away from the reckless trading spell that has propelled his club into the AFL spotlight.

The Hawks traded Brownlow medalist and three-time Best and Fairest winner Tom Mitchell and midfield partner Jaeger O’Meara in a double bomb.

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The pair joined the club in late 2016 and were set to extend Hawthorn’s Premiership window under champions coach Alastair Clarkson.

And while both carried midfield during their time at the club, the Hawks only made it to the finals once in 2018, when they were eliminated in straight sets.

After three straight years in the bottom six and with Coach Mitchell a year into his tenure, the Hawks are on a mission to renew their roster.

“I’m not going to say, ‘oh, well, they’re the reason (we didn’t play the finals)’. They are very, very good players,” Mitchell told 7NEWS.

“(But) the mix hasn’t worked for us in recent years and we’re trying to regenerate our midfield.

“If we look at the best teams in the competition, they have some midfielders who are quite damaging and at a very different level than what we have at the moment.”

Jaeger O’Meara and Tom Mitchell both left the Hawks during a busy offseason. Recognition: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Along with Mitchell and O’Meara, fellow leaders Ben McEvoy (retired), Jack Gunston (Brisbane) and Liam Shiels (retired but likely to North Melbourne) also left the club.

“We know that if we don’t make hard calls, you won’t get anywhere. You have to make some tough decisions to get where you want to be as a football club,” Mitchell said.

“We want to make sure we’re a team that’s fighting for silverware, not just competing and hopefully finishing eighth.

“I knew that wasn’t Hawthorn’s ambition, it never was.”

With more than 1,000 playing experiences, the Hawks brought in former Port Adelaide midfielder Karl Amon as a free agent, as well as young Ruckmann Lloyd Meek and midfielder Cooper Stephens from Fremantle and Geelong respectively.

List transformation has seen the Hawks go from one of the oldest to one of the youngest in a span of four years.

“Other than McEvoy and Gunston, these were all our decisions as a club. We are very, very clear about our strategy.

“We have to build the standards and the cultures and all the things that will bring about the success of the Premiership and if we start now with the older people they won’t be here to enforce it.”

Hawthorn captain Ben McEvoy’s AFL career ended in late 2022. Recognition: AAP

Mitchell is confident he now has a young core who can lead the Hawks to their next flag.

“As it stands there is no speed limit, we’re going to go as fast as we can in the direction we can, we know we basically have the core of the team now that can get us where we’re going want to go,” he said.

Mitchell has had a busy off-season with visits to Harvard and also a week with Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou and former Socceroo Harry Kewell.

“Probably what I’ve learned as a coach is that as a young coach I sweat the little things a little too much,” he said.

Draft Gun draws attention to AFL minnows.

Draft Gun draws attention to AFL minnows. Sam Mitchell doubles down on Hawthorn’s ruthless list strategy after brutal trading period

James Brien

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