Hawthorn’s 2016 premiership campaign is over but their golden era of success won’t end with Friday night’s semifinal loss to the Western Bulldogs, says Alastair Clarkson.
The Hawks’ were overrun by the Bulldogs in the second half at the MCG, Luke Beveridge’s side thwarting Hawthorn’s bid to equal the record of four premierships in a row, set by Jock McHale’s Collingwood from 1927 to 1930.
“I know what the papers are going to say … they’ll say that it’s the end of an era,” Clarkson said after the 23-point loss.
“‘They’re too old and too slow’ but we’ll just have a little bit of a break, reload and get going again.
“They’re a proud group and we know we’ve got some improving to do as a side … but they’ve always been a group that rolls the sleeves up and tries to improve every day.”
The Hawks looked set to break the game open at 23 points up early in the second quarter but the Dogs clawed that deficit back to just one point at halftime.
Then Hawthorn were powerless to stop a run of six goals in the third quarter that set up the Dogs’ preliminary final clash against Greater Western Sydney.
Premiership stars like Luke Hodge, Josh Gibson and Jordan Lewis didn’t have their usual influence but Clarkson believes his club – having blooded seven new players this season – won’t have to rely so heavily on those veterans to keep his team in premiership calculations in 2017.
Clarkson also pointed to the possible return of full-forward Jarryd Roughead from cancer treatment next season as one of several reasons for optimism and added the Hawks would look to improve their list through the trade period period.
Young Gold Coast star Jaeger O’Meara could prove a huge boost, but Clarkson admitted there was much water to go under the bridge before he arrived at the club – labeling that trade process “difficult”.
Hawthorn’s vaunted pressure on the ball carrier was still very much on display, but Clarkson felt his players weren’t rewarded for their efforts that saw them lay 42 more tackles than the Dogs.
“We laid 104 tackles and got how many free kicks do you reckon for holding the ball? Three,” he said.
“So what can you say to your players? It’s not that the endeavour isn’t there.
“That’s where the game has changed a little bit. They want the game to keep moving, so we’ll need to change some things that we do because that is a significant change in the way the game is being umpired.
“That’s a lot of tackles to lay for bugger all reward isn’t it?”