Hawthorn Hawks 2012 DT Preview

Unlucky to miss out on a Grand Final berth in 2011, the Hawks will be reeling from their heartbreaking Semi-Final 3 point loss to Collingwood  last year. They will be using that as motivation and also as a stepping stone to launch their 2012 campaign. Since their unexpected 2008  Grand Final win, Hawthorn hasn’t dominated as much as they perhaps should’ve. However they will head into the upcoming season full of  confidence and buoyed by the return of several key players from injury. Expect them to challenge for top 2 honours and add another trophy to their name.

Finishing 1st for overall points scored at the end of 2011, the Hawks’ brand of football is extremely appealing for DT coaches. Particularly in  the backline, they love to kick the ball around and to the edges to create chances. So expect plenty of points to be scored around the half back  flank and on the wings. Along with a few obvious guns, Hawthorn provide good value in their squad with many experienced players returning from injuries and a few young guns looking to build on their 2011 breakout seasons.

Best 22

B: Guerra, Gibson, Puopolo
HB: Birchall, Gilham, Suckling
C: Lewis, Mitchell, Shiels
HF: Whitecross, Franklin, Smith
F: Rioli, Roughead, Bruest
Foll: Hale, Hodge, Sewell

Int: Bailey, Savage, Burgoyne
Sub: Ellis

Em: Bateman, Young, Stratton

Fringe Players – Gunston, Shoenmakers, Murphy, Osborne, Bruce, Cheney
DT Relevant Rookies – Hill, Frank, Kelly, Bosely, Hallahan, Woodward, Pattison, Grimley

2012 Draw & Byes

The Hawks have a tough draw this year. Playing 4 of the top 8 from 2011 twice, they only play one team from the bottom half of the ladder (Port) multiple times in 2012. This will present them with a challenging year; however aside from their opening two rounds against Collingwood and Geelong, they shouldn’t have too many troubles negotiating the draw given their ongoing improvement and depth. Look for them to dominate between rounds 7 and 12 where they play Melbourne, Freo, Richmond, North, Port and Brisbane. In terms of DT, Pencil in big scores for the Hawks in rounds 11 and 20 against Port; as well as in round 15 against newcomers GWS.

Hawthorn share the bye with the Blues, Saints, Tigers, Power and Suns in 2012. This will provide coaches with a headache in the backline as they try to fit in Suckling and Birchall alongside other round 13 stars such as Goddard and Deledio. In terms of the midfield, consider that Marc Murphy and Gary Ablett Jnr share the same bye. So think twice about putting both in if you’re considering a Hawthorn midfielder too. If you can’t fit them all in at the start of the season, don’t stress. Hawks players will be popular mid-season upgrades as from round 11 they play Port twice, GWS and the Suns.


Matt Suckling – DEF – $448,900 – 2011 average – 90.8 (20 games)

2012 was a massive breakout year for Suckers. Coming from nowhere, he nailed down a spot in the Hawks 22 and stayed there for the whole  year ala Liam Shiels. After falling away at the end of the year, his average dropped a few points. Consider this though – from rounds 2 – 21 Suckling averaged 96.6 points a game. That is outstanding given he’d only played 6 games in his first two years, averaging 36 and 51 respectively. In the absence of several injured Hawks defenders, he made a spot on the half back flank his own and will hope to continue his  good form into 2012. He will be face more pressure on his spot this year with Stratton, Ellis, Gilham and co. coming back from injury, however one would think he now has first crack at the job.

Verdict: Having emerged as one of the best defenders in DT, Suckling was the highest averaging Hawks defender in 2011 and would be well worth his premium price tag.
Predicted average for 2012: 95

Grant Birchall – DEF – $443,500 – 2011 average – 89.7 (21 games)

Birch had a mini-breakout year in 2011, taking his average from 77 to 90 to put his name up with the elite defenders in DT. He is as durable as they come, having only missed 5 games in the last 5 years; as well as slowly improving his scoring and consistency. Unfortunately for him, he shares the bye with several other gun defenders, so he may have a bit of competition in your team for a spot. However if you pick him from the outset, he will definitely not let you down. With a good kick:handball ratio and routinely clocking up 10 + marks a game; Birchall is as good an option as most as a premium backman.

Verdict: Pick him to start with or upgrade to him after the Hawks bye in round 13, Birchall is another of Hawthorn’s many rising stars.
Predicted average for 2012: 95


Sam Mitchell – MID – $554,000 – 2011 average – 112 (20 games)

Since handing over the captaincy to Hodge at the end of 2010, Mitchell has exploded in DT. With an average of 112 in 2011, I don’t expect him  to slow down at all. In fact, from round 10 to round 21, he averaged 120.72 from 11 games – that puts him right up there with the super  premiums. Unfortunately the tough season took its toll and he tapered off in the last few games. He was however, still the best Hawks  midfielder by far. Based on the preseason talk, it seems that with everyone jumping on Swan, Ablett and Rockliff, Mitchell could be a slightly unique premium in your midfield makeup and should be in the top 6 come the end of 2012.

Verdict: Durable and high-scoring, Mitchell should be on everyone’s shortlist in the preseason. If you pick him, you will not be disappointed.
Predicted average for 2012: 115

Liam Shiels – MID – 508,400 – 2011 average – 102.8 (22 games)

This time last year 99% of us would have had no idea who this guy was. But once the season started, that all changed very quickly. Going from an average of 53.3 in his second year, Shiels’ breakout season was one of the biggest ever seen in DT. For those coaches who picked him up early, they would have been laughing when he finished as the 11th highest scoring player over 22 rounds in the whole competition! With an ability to find the ball, coupled with the fact he doesn’t get tagged – expect Shiels to only get better in 2012 and increase his average by around 5 points as he looks to add more consistency to his game.

Verdict: After a breakout year in 2011, he will still be slightly unique and presents good value for his price. He may well be the point of difference that wins you your league.
Predicted average for 2012: 108


David Hale – RUC/FWD – $342,800 – 2011 average – 69.3 (17 games)

Since the departure of tap specialist Brent Renouf, Hale will assume the number 1 ruck position at the Hawks. He has never been a huge scorer in DT, with his best season coming in their Premiership year of 2008. Marred by injury the last few years, Hale will be hoping to have a good  year in 2012 and lead the Hawks to another Grand Final in the ruck. Without Brent Renouf leading the hit outs, look for him to take control in  the middle whilst pushing forward to kick a few goals too; resulting in a healthy rise in his average.

Verdict: If he can stay fit, he should be a solid mid price option in your ruck division for 2012.
Predicted average for 2012: 80

Jarryd Roughead – RUC/FWD – $414,600 – 2011 average – 83.8 (11 games)

After long being considered the 2nd tall in attack, Roughead had a slight change in role towards the middle of last year – partly due to the injury crisis in Hawthorn’s ruck division. When thrown into the middle to help out in the ruck, his scoring improved dramatically, averaging 99.8 points from rounds 5 – 11. Until the third quarter in round 12, when he was stretchered off with an Achilles injury; he was flying. The update is that he started running a few weeks back but has not been given a specific return date. Even if he doesn’t start the season, watch out  for him to see if he picks up from where he left off. Look for Roughy to try and forge a good combination with Hale in the ruck, whilst helping out Buddy in the forward line.

Verdict: If he starts the season fully fit he could be a unique mid price ruck option. If not, look to see how he goes coming back from the injury before considering him as an upgrade later in the year.
Predicted average for 2012: 80


Lance Franklin – FWD – $503,000 – 2011 average – 101.7 (19 games)

2011 was Buddy’s best year of DT yet. He remains one of the best talents in the AFL and on his day, an absolute freak. His ability to turn scoring shots into goals from pretty much anywhere helps out his DT output, as does his ability to push further up the ground into the midfield. With the recruitment of Gunston and the return of Roughead; look for more high scores from Buddy in 2012 as he looks to lead from
the front. The main worry with this guy is his penchant for getting suspended. If his technique can be altered slightly, he will be less
likely to end up at the Match Review Panel. If he stopped giving away so many free kicks, his DT scores would increase dramatically and he may actually be able to play out a full season.

Verdict: Buddy is still one of the best scoring forwards in DT; however with the emergence of the young DPP midfielders in 2012, he may not be the lock he once was.
Predicted average for 2012: 105

Cyril Rioli – FWD – $429,700 – 2011 average – 86.9 (16 games)

Like Franklin, Rioli is a superstar of the competition. He is one of the most exciting players to watch; and on his day he can turn oppositions inside out with his footwork. DT wise, he is yet to hit his prime and truly ‘breakout’ and at the age of 22 his best football is very much in front of him. He has been working with the Hawthorn conditioning staff to alter his running style and will keen to put his hamstring issues of last year behind him. Clarkson says his preseason so far has been ‘first-class’ and is expecting big things from Cyril in 2012. With more time in the  midfield a real possibility sooner rather than later, this may well be the year we see Cyril Rioli come of age as both a DT gun and an AFL star.

Verdict: With a full preseason under his belt, and more time in the midfield on the cards; Rioli offers great value and is a great choice for your forward line in 2012.
Predicted average for 2012: 95


Clinton Young – MID – $326,000 – 2011 average – 65.9 (10 games)

If he can force his way back into the team, he could be a smokey ala Liam Shiels in 2011 as he loves to rack up the possessions on the wing or HBF. After a blistering start to the year in which he scored a 109, 97 and 102 in the first 4 rounds, injury yet again cruelled Young’s campaign leaving him with only 10 games to his name. He has the ability to score well, but his durability is the big issue here. If he can force his way back  into the Best 22 and put together a full season, he could have a breakout year and provide good value for money.

Verdict: At $326k he is at an awkward price, however if he shows good form early and can remain fit then jump on before it’s too late.
Predicted average for 2011: 85

Jack Gunston – FWD – $303,400 – 2011 average – 61.3 (12 games)

The young, highly rated key forward from Adelaide should see more than a few games in the Hawks forward line this year. With Buddy and Roughead attracting the best two defenders, he should be given plenty of space to develop by Clarkson in an already star-studded forward line. Having only played 14 games in two years, he is still only starting out, however heading into his 3rd year of AFL footy we should see a rise in his average and hopefully see him play most games this season.

Verdict: As a KPP we shouldn’t expect a massive breakout this year, however if he plays enough games we should see his star rise in 2012.
Predicted average for 2012: 72

Shane Savage – MID – $382,300 – 2011 average – 77.3 (17 games)

A future star in the making, Savage started the year under the radar until exploding in round 8 with a huge 144 against St Kilda. He also went onto record scores of 164 and 128 – not bad for a kid in his second year. Savage can score from everything: kicks, marks and a few goals too. Look for him to follow the ‘3rd Year Breakout Rule’. If he can make a spot on the wing his own, he could breakout and average over 100 in  2012. For the same price you could get Lenny Hayes, however it depends what kind of player you are going for – a fallen gun or a breakout player.

Verdict: Either way, all the signs point for a breakout year for Savage. You’ll have to choose him over several other players poised for a breakout year, however I’m tipping Savage to be a unique smokey in 2012.
Predicted average for 2012: 90


Brad Hill – MID – $98,700

Considered an elite athlete, Hill performed well at the NAB AFL Draft Combine and was subsequently picked up by the Hawks at pick 33 in the draft. Brother of Fremantle’s Stephen Hill, Brad is an exciting small forward with a good turn of pace. In a similar mould to Rioli, Hill may struggle to get a game in 2012. However if Rioli goes down, look for him to push for senior selection. Given his recent run in with the law, I’d say he’s fallen down the order a bit but if he can put up some runs on the board for Box Hill; then expect him to be considered.

Verdict: Hill would be an ideal downgrade target as the likes of Dylan Shiel and Tom Mitchell peak in price.
Predicted average for 2012: 60

Adam Pattison – FWD/RUC – $85,800

At 25, Pattison is another mature ruckman that has been around the AFL for a while, but never quite been able to make his mark. After spending time with Richmond and St Kilda, the Hawks have given him a third (and perhaps final) chance to force a successful career. Clarkson has said that with a good preseason and some hard yards during the year, Pattison could feature for the Hawks in 2012.

Verdict: Look for him to make his debut for the Hawks later in the year and give us a good downgrade option in the ruck for Stephenson or Giles.
Predicted average for 2012: 60

Mitch Hallahan – MID – $104,200

Drafted at pick 38 in the end of 2010, Hallahan is a tough, inside midfielder with a pugnacious approach. Hampered by injuries last year, he only managed to play a few games for Box Hill throughout the season. Clarkson has said that he’s having a much more ‘productive’ season and expects him to push for senior selection in 2012.

Verdict: Look for Hallahan to make his debut this year, but not right away. He could be a fantastic downgrade target.
Predicted average for 2011: 65

Others to consider

Luke Hodge – He provides great value this year after dropping his average to 94.5 in 2011. Racking up the points equally off half back and in the middle, Hodge should bounce back in 2012 and push the 100 point average again.

Jordan Lewis – With DPP eligibility and averages of 95, 83, 93, 87 and 89 over the past 5 years; also having only missed 11 games in that same period; he presents a solid option as a forward with his durability and scoring.

Xavier Ellis – After a promising start to his career, Ellis has been up and down in the past 3 years whilst still managing a decent average. If he comes out firing and can stay fit, he could push his average up into the 90’s.

Luke Breust – Enjoying an excellent debut season in a top 4 team, expect Breust to be pushed a bit more this year to hold his spot. He has a lot of potential but will have outside pressure from Brad Hill and Amos Frank who’ll be looking to make their debuts.


  • Awesome article McRath! Do you ever see the sun?

    I’ve only found room for Buddy this year as I’m still seething from last years carnage that cost me a spot in the Grannie!!!

    • It couldn’t have cost your spot IN the granny but could of cost a premiership as it could of done with me except I had boyd as captain in the last round who got 160 and swan got 80!

      • You’re right! I traded out Franklin for Higgins (What was I thinking?) who stunk it up for 30 points!!!

    • Cheers mate. Yeah I do haha just a quiet period at work so have a bit more time available. Franklin Mitchell and Birch are on my shortlist so far. Considering Pattison as a ruck downgrade too

  • Great read mate, but wouldnt Max Bailey be number 1 ruck over Hale? Not that its really DT relevant!!

    Only looking Franklin, Mitchell, Hodge, Suckling from the Hawks.

  • Want either Birchall or Suckling in my defence but am finding it difficult to squeeze one of them in

  • I too only have Franklin at this stage, but am sorely tempted by a few others.

  • Great Article! Although some of the predicted averages may be slightly overestimated, still a great read!

  • What a great DT team the Hawks are. So tempted to have both Birchall and Suckling in the backine..my wife insists I have no pies in her team…those two, Mitchell and Franklin are in her side. I jagged Shiels at @210,000 last year, best buy for me by light years. If in doubt pick a Hawk, DT friendly team.

  • Nice read!
    Great debut year by I.Smith too- shame he lost his dpp.
    Reckon he could a Fyfe!

  • Very DT-friendly team, the Hawks. Unfortunately most of their stars are fully priced. Hodge is interesting, but there’s better options around that price IMO (Barlow mainly). Xavier Ellis is the other interesting one, but with a lot of decent mid-priced options in the backline, it just looks too risky.

  • In the future I’d like to see instead of predicted average for rookies, predicted games played. For most rookies under 100k game amount is the most important unless the play is either an absolute ball magnet or a Darren Glass/Presti type.

    I’ve only got Buddy in my team atm from the Hawks and I don’t see myself gettting any more, Buddy’s spot is even up for grabs.

    • predicted games played for the Hawk rookies at this stage is pure guess, is no Puopolo, Smith, Bruest or Savage on the horizon.

      • Don’t bother. Last year was the year for Hawthorn youngsters, this year, barring injury to a fair amount of players, you’ll be looking at an experienced team all year round.

  • Nice dedication to DT McRath – how many write ups have you done now? Only thing I can add to the above is a bit of a caution on Suckling and Rioli.

    The risk in selecting Rioli is obvious; he doesn’t cope well with tags and is more valuable to Hawthorn as a small forward as the Hawks have a lot of talented mids. Plus he is likely to suffer from soft tissue problems again this year.

    I would steer clear of Suckling as he was out of favour during the finals last year and copped several vests. When he did play his defensive efforts and intensity levels were poor. The Hawks have HEAPS of mid-sized defenders who may push Suckling out despite his pretty kicking. As much as Hawks fans hate him, Murphy is loved and rated by Clarko, Stratton is almost as popular and Schoenmakers is the future Hawks fullback. Throw in a fit Ellis and Suckling may be vested until he retires.

    One more thing, Isaac Smith deserves a mention. He was playing local footy until mid-2010 and a year later he is holding his own against Collingwood. Don’t be surprised if this guy is a DT star in 2012.

    • Hey Thommo, agree on Smith…think the guy is a gun and has an enormous tank that bodes very well for DT…do i have the aggots to pick him….NO! ….but he may well come in to my calculations later in the year. Same opinion of Mzungu…. 2 rookie stand outs from last year that will get more mid time and show that it wasnt a fluke.

  • Suckling will not be vested during the home and away season unless coming back from an injury! Gilham will be lucky 2 get a game (not dt relevant) stratton is 100% in the hawks best 22 he is the hawks third best defender. Birchall will have another elite year and should be picked in your squads. Stay away from ellis as he isnt among the top 30 players and will not get a game in 2012. Hodge average 100 this year and if you take the punt on him it will pay off. Isaac smith is although quite expensive will have another fantastic year and will average arlund 95 new nat fyfe! Bailey is hawks number 1 ruck and will have a good year! (not the best dter averaging around 70-75). Roughead is a 50/50 dream team wise but i suggest not to touch him until after the hawks bye where he settles back in 2 afl football. Franklin is a must, if you go for mitchell you will get what you pay for and rioli is the same. Shauny burgoyne is an interesting one at a fairly cheap price and will most likely be his last dominant year. I will be picking him as he presents good value and should average around 85-90. Hawthorn are in my oppinion the best team for dream team as they play a possesion style game. Lowden will get a few games this season and is a good downgrade option late in the season when orren stephenson and giles rise in value! I dont see any first year players seeing senior action this year so i will not pick any!

    • You poor one-eyed supporter you.
      Hodge will only get his average up if he: a) can stay away from injury or b) lose the captaincy (that thing seems to be cursed).
      Rioli is not good value yet, I’d check in later in the year to see if his hammy’s stand the test of time.
      Gilham will be playing games, he is among the top defenders. Puopolo will play interchange monkey and move around all positions (bar ruck) while Gilham, Gibson, Stratton, Suckling, Birchall and Schoenmakers (oh how I hate him) will make up the backs.

  • I love Mitchell and chose him last year where he served me well.

    My problem is even if he raises his average to 115.

    Ablett will push 120 easy and from all news Rockliff is flying. There is also Pendlebury and Boyd safe locks for 115 around that price.

    Will be hard to fit him in especially with the byes as well.

    • I too love Sammy MItchell and he has never let me down.. tempted to get him again as a point of difference and should be just as reliable and high scoring as a Boyd.

  • Isaac Smith… Where do I begin. Getting his chance in 2011, he grabbed it with both hands to become a DT rookie sensation in the latter half of the year to record several big hundreds and was very handy when the likes of Didak and Voldt were underperforming. I can definately see him making the step up in his 2nd year and will have all the opportunities available as he cemented his spot in Clarksons 22.
    At his price you have a lot of mettle to pick him. But it will be a genius move if it pays off. My prediction is he’ll bump his avg up to 90 this year – sadly because he has no DPP that’s not enough for me in the midfield in 2012. If has DPP in 2013 he’ll be a lock.

    With the others… I though Gilham was well and truly in their 22 but had had a few injuries – a couple of them have actually. Which is the reason why Suckers did so well. I reckon Birchall is the gun DT Backman at the Hawks for sure.

  • Nice write up. For me Riloi is a lock. He may of burnt a few people in the past, but this bloke is just freakishly good and with a season uninterupted by injury could be easily in the top 5 forwads.

    I havent seen him in many people’s teams which suprsies me a little as I think this will be a huge year. He is 22 years old!

  • Good write up, Hawks definitely look to be one of the more DT friendly teams again. Buddy is a lock for me and tossing up between Birchill and Suckling in defence.

    I know the projected points posted here are only a guide but they look overly optimistic imo. Given there were only 3 defenders who averaged 95+ last season Suckling and Birchill would be hard pressed to actually get to their projected averages of 95. Especially if the Hawks were to start moving away from their chipping style in the backline.

    And David Hale averaging 80? His career best was 73 as the key forward at North and I just don’t see it with Bailey there. Some others might get sucked into his DPP though so good luck to them!

    Personally finding the projections at ultimatefooty slightly more useful for those after a second opinion http://www.ultimatefooty.com.au/player_research?club=HW

  • Hawthorn have a history of resting their guns during DT finals, so I think that should be taken into account when selecting them. Having Port Adelaide Rd 20 (in Tassie) and GC Suns Rd 21 sounds like great opportunities for them to rest their Mitchell’s and Hodge’s.

  • Have to say im warry of Buddy because he is on 2 strikes. But I guess he is too good to pass up!

  • Got Gunston, Mitchell, Birchall and Buddy from the Hawks.
    Is Gunston DT relevant??