Hawthorn’s AFL side will have a different look in 2017 but the Hawks’ mantra will stay the same – secure a top-four berth, regroup and go again.
An off-season of significant change has seen premiership stars Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Bradley Hill depart, with Jarryd Roughead assuming the captaincy after triple-premiership skipper Luke Hodge stepped aside.
Liam Shiels was also part of Alastair Clarkson’s bold makeover, the 25-year-old ascending to the vice-captaincy alongside Isaac Smith.
Shiels admits there is a different feel around the club entering the 2017 season, but that doesn’t mean expectations are lower.
“Our mantra for probably the past five years now has been to finish top four to give ourselves the best chance to do some damage in September … that stays the same,” Shiels said.
“Losing those guys does give the young guys the chance to step up … there’s spots up for grabs, so the energy at training has been fantastic.
“We’ve got great young players coming through, we’ve always had great depth, so that’s probably our greatest strength.
“We’ve obviously picked up a few new guys as well so I think we’re set for a great year.”
Jaeger O’Meara, Tom Mitchell and Ty Vickery were key acquisitions for the Hawks after they were bundled out of last year’s finals series in straight sets.
The departures of experienced duo Mitchell and Lewis leaves a leadership void on and off the field, which Shiels and Smith are intent on filling.
Shiels, in particular, has been touted as a future captain of the club, notably by Hawthorn champion Jason Dunstall.
He doesn’t shy away from those aspirations, but is happy to continue his apprenticeship.
“This is my first year as vice-captain and I still know I’ve got a lot to learn,” he said.
“The lucky position that I’m in is I’m still learning from guys like Luke Hodge, Jarryd Roughead and Josh Gibson.
“I’m in a fortunate position but I haven’t really thought too much about captaincy.”