This is an article I wrote in order to apply for an AFL Media internship in January 2018.
Alastair Clarkson says the future of Hawthorn is bright following an impressive second half of the season, despite missing the finals for the first time since 2009.
The Hawks coach named Kaiden Brand, Daniel Howe and Ryan Burton as players who will lead the charge in helping the club towards another premiership tilt.
“The learnings from the second half of the year were valuable for them and the football club,” Clarkson said. “They showed themselves, they showed their teammates and more importantly the supporters of the Hawthorn Footy Club that there’s some light ahead.
“Hopefully with another summer and hard work we can play finals next year.”
Clarkson refused to buy into the Rising Star favouritism of Burton but said the potential of an individual accolade would be just rewards for the 20 year-old.
“He’s a really flexible player and he’s had a really solid season for our footy club,
“He’s obviously become pretty accomplished behind the ball for us this year in the seniors but we’ve also got high hopes that he can play forward for us too.”
Burton missed Hawthorn’s nine-point victory over the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, as the careers of spiritual leader Luke Hodge and Dogs duo Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd came to a close.
Clarkson said it was a memorable night for all involved.
“The gathering of both club’s supporters after the game to see those three guys chaired off the ground… there’s some special moments in footy and that was one of them.”
The five-time premiership coach was philosophical about the retirements of Hodge and Josh Gibson, explaining that the time to embrace the future is now.
“We knew as a football club that our best footy with that group of players was behind us,” Clarkson said.
“As important as those players are and as decorated that they’ve been for our football club, it’s natural evolution that they come and go,
“Those older guys will be replaced and you just move on.”
The return of captain Jarryd Roughead to senior football, Clarkson said, was the highlight of the season for the Hawks.
Roughead, who was diagnosed with cancer in May 2016, returned in round one against Essendon and played all 22 games in season 2017.
“This time last year he never knew if he was going to play footy again,” said Clarkson.
“Only he can fully understand what his body went through.”