The trade period this year has been a quiet one for the Hawks, with the only inclusion being Jarman Impey. While the reactions to their activity in the trade period have been mixed, what is more concerning is the fact that Hawthorn do not have any early draft picks owing to their trade activity last year. However, Hawthorn have been the masters of pulling out some diamonds in the rough from the draft. We take a look at the top 5 draft steals for Hawthorn from the last 5 years.
Note: I’ve only included players who are new to the system, and ones who were drafted after pick 25 in the national draft. Unfortunately, this will exclude the likes of Ryan Burton and Billy Hartung.
1 James Sicily (pick 56, 2013)
When you speak of draft steals, you cannot go past James Sicily. He has found himself in the news for his temper tantrums and showboating, but one thing that cannot be denied is that Sicily has plenty of talent to back it up. Sicily spent his first season at Box Hill and was subsequently handed a debut in 2015. With Jarryd Roughead’s absence in 2016, Sicily was given the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities in Hawthorn’s forward line. He played 22 games that year, kicking 30 goals and averaging 18.5 disposals a game.
After this stellar season, Sicily had a sluggish start to 2017. He received a new lease of life when Alastair Clarkson swung him into defence. Sicily proceeded to show another side to his game, blanketing some good opposition forwards while accumulating disposals himself and providing rebound runs into attack. With Frawley and Stratton slated to return in 2018, it will be interesting to see where Sicily is played. Wherever that is, be assured you will see plenty more of the aggression and grunt that has seen him have a great season in 2017.
2 Blake Hardwick (pick 44, 2015)
Originally drafted as a small forward, Hardwick quickly found himself shoring up the Hawthorn backline. After playing just one game in 2016, Hardwick quickly established himself in the Hawthorn side this year, with elite kicking and efficiency being hallmarks of his game. Hardwick played the season in defence, successfully taking on several quality small forwards including Eddie Betts, Michael Walters and Tom Papley. With several experienced defenders out injured, it fell upon Hardwick, Burton and Brand to form a defensive core under the guidance of Luke Hodge, and they did so with success. While Hardwick has indicated that he would like to play forward when the opportunity arises, he has done his credentials no harm in defence, and will be one of the first names in the team sheet in 2018.
3 Daniel Howe (pick 31, 2014)
Initially touted as a long-term replacement for Grant Birchall, Howe was picked at number 31 in 2014. He was noticed at Box Hill for his mobility and athleticism despite being over 190 cm. Howe was handed his debut in 2015 against Gold Coast, and played 4 games in total. With several key personnel missing in 2016, Howe was given the opportunity to play in defence. He played 11 games, averaging 14.2 disposals and 3.6 marks a game. With Birchall’s injury in 2017, he started off in defence in the first few games. After Howe showed some indifferent form, Clarkson pulled off another masterstroke, moving him into the midfield to play a negating midfielder role. Howe took to this challenge with aplomb, doing great work on some big names including Nat Fyfe, Dan Hanneberry and Rory Sloane. Howe seems to have found his niche in the midfield now, and can also chip in with a handy goal or two when needed.
4 Tim O’Brien (pick 28, 2012)
The lanky, athletic Tim O’Brien was picked at number 28 in the 2012 AFL national draft, primarily for his marking abilities and solid leg speed relative to height. O’Brien was a slow starter, but it was obvious that he was a ‘work in progress’ kind of player. He debuted in 2014 and showed promise in the 4 games he played. With Hawthorn enjoying some strong years, and also due to their squad depth, he found himself on the outer in 2015. The retirement of Brian Lake, and injuries to other key personnel gave him a 14-game run in 2016, where he filled gaps in the defence, and pinch hit up forward and in the ruck.
2017 saw O’Brien show career-best form, taking strong contested marks and providing the Hawks with great options up forward. He kicked 19 goals in a season where goals were a premium for the Hawks. He was one of the many youngsters who were instrumental in Hawthorn’s resurgence later in the season. At 23, O’Brien has plenty of footy left, and is steadily beginning to repay the faith shown in him. A contract extension at the end of the 2017 season will see him stay at Hawthorn at least until 2019.
5 Kaiden Brand (pick 66, 2012)
Hawthorn bolstered their tall options by drafting Kaiden Brand at number 66 in 2012. After enjoying a premiership with VFL affiliates Box Hill in 2013, he went on to play another full season with them at full-back, and demonstrated good pace and marking ability. Unfortunately for him, his debut game in the NAB cup did not last long, as he injured his shoulder in the opening minute. This resulted in a shoulder reconstruction, which saw him miss the whole season. Brand returned in 2016 to play 11 games, and demonstrated glimpses of being able to carry the defensive load on big forwards. Injuries to James Frawley and Ben Stratton saw Brand play as a key defender for a bulk of 2017. After a shaky start, Brand gelled well with the likes of Burton and Hardwick to breathe new life into the Hawthorn backline. Again, at 23 years of age, Brand has a lot of football left in him, and will look to establish himself as an indispensable figure in Hawthorn’s defence.
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