Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Hawthorn.
- Ladder position: Ninth
- Home and away win-loss ratio: 11-11
- Percentage: 108.7
Hawthorn Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
Hawthorn paid the price for a slow start to the season, missing out on the finals after a straight-sets exit in 2018. Hampered by the loss of 2018 Brownlow Medal winner Tom Mitchell – who broke his leg in a January training session and missed the entire season – the Hawks lost four of their first seven games and then dropped four in a row from Round 11 to Round 15. That meant that even with a strong finish, that resulted in six wins from their last eight, including wins over four of the top six, Hawthorn missed out on September action.
Hawthorn’s best win came in Round 23, a 38-point win at then-reigning premiers West Coast drastically changing the make-up of the finals. The Eagles rarely lose at home and entered the match having won 20 of their last 24 matches at Perth Stadium. The Hawks were far too good, though, Chad Wingard and Jaeger O’Meara impressing in midfield. Promising forward Tim O’Brien added four goals, too, in a win that filled Hawthorn fans with optimism heading into the finals series they had to sit and watch. West Coast dropped out of the top four as a result of their defeat.
Only one of Hawthorn’s defeats was by more than a five-goal margin and a 36-point loss to the eventual premiers, Richmond, was nothing to be ashamed about. Hawks fans will look back on a Round 7 loss to Melbourne as a bad one, though. The Demons only won by five points but Simon Goodwin’s men triumphed in just five matches in 2019. Victory in that clash would have seen Hawthorn make the finals.
The best and fairest
If there was a positive to come from Mitchell’s season-long injury, it was James Worpel’s rapid development. The 20-year-old seized his chance to play more midfield minutes and produced an outstanding season that saw him win the Peter Crimmins Medal. Worpel averaged 26.6 disposals per match in 2019 and his tenacity was another feature of his play. Worpel regularly credited former Hawthorn star Sam Mitchell – now a coach at the club – for his improvement. Ricky Henderson finished second, while Jaeger O’Meara was third.
Worpel’s brilliance was recognised by his club but it was midfielder O’Meara who polled the most votes for Hawthorn at the Brownlow Medal. O’Meara won 11 votes to finish in a share of 32nd, while Worpel and Henderson polled 10 each. James Sicily won eight votes, while Jack Gunston and Liam Shiels got five each.
Sicily’s terrific season as a rebounding defender saw him as the only Hawthorn player nominated for the 40-man All-Australian squad. Sicily averaged 21.1 disposals and 7.2 marks per game, providing Hawthorn with plenty of runs, carry and drive off half-back. He did not make the final team, though, edged out by the likes of Bachar Houli and Shannon Hurn.
The goal kickers
That Luke Breust topped Hawthorn’s goal kicking with 34 said everything about a forward line that was rarely in sync in 2019. It took the Hawks until Round 22 to break the 100-point barrier and although young forward Mitch Lewis showed plenty of promise late in the year, Hawthorn needs to be more potent in attack if they are to improve in 2020. Jack Gunston was not his usual self in 2019, finishing with just 26 goals, while Lewis added 20.
The reason to be hopeful
If Mitchell can return at the same level he was at in 2018, Hawthorn has every chance of returning to finals action. Improved seasons from Tom Scully and Chad Wingard would help, too, with Worpel and O’Meara doing much of the heavy lifting in 2019. Lewis looks seriously promising in the forward 50 and new recruit Jonathon Patton adds firepower to Hawthorn’s forward stocks. An improved season seems on the cards, especially with the acquisitions of defenders Sam Frost and Michael Hartley to improve Hawthorn’s defence.