HAWTHORN'S midfield is in decline and its premiership window is about close, according to club great Dermott Brereton.
Winless from their opening four pre-season matches, Brereton said the Hawks, with their ageing midfielders, had "one year left in them”.
“Really, the way I’ve seen League footy go in the last two to three full seasons, it’s a big, powerful midfielder’s game now.
“Hawthorn have four of their five big midfielders, (who) are on the wrong side of the peak of their careers.”
The Hawks go into the 2013 season with captain Luke Hodge (29 years) under an injury cloud and fellow on-ballers Sam Mitchell (30), Brad Sewell (29), Shaun Burgoyne (30) and Jordan Lewis (26) driving the midfield unit.
“Mitchell will probably hang on the longest out of all of them because he’s got a quick sidestep,” Brereton said.
“Hodge’s body, you know he’s been a wonderful warrior, his body is failing him a bit. Lewis is the right age, he’s OK, but he’s never been quick.
"Burgoyne’s knee troubles him. He’s only got 30 minutes in the midfield in him per game and Sewell who’s the wrong age.
“I tend to think they’ve probably got one season left, one shot left in the barrel with those midfielders."
Brereton said the loss of key playmaker Matt Suckling and his kicking-in ability would be a blow to the Hawks’ attacking options in their back half.
Suckling ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament on Saturday and is set to undergo a reconstruction which will sideline him for the season.
“To find somebody willing to take the footy and kick it in from the goal square these days [is difficult]; it used to be, ‘give it to me, I’ll tap it on my boot and end up with 10 extra disposals'. [But] blokes who wilfully say give it to me now are few and far between," Brereton said.
“Suckling’s one of those guys . It will mean somebody has to be found for an extra kick-in man. Those two, (Brent) Guerra and Suckling would take 80 per cent of the kick-ins."
Brereton, a great in the number 23 with the Hawks, said the contract talk surrounding the current 23, Lance Franklin, would also be a distraction for the club. Franklin has put off contract talks with Hawthorn until the end of the season when he becomes a free agent.
“I tend to think it is going to be a distraction,” he said.
“I get on pretty well with Lance. I don’t speak to him about anything like that. I see him occasionally and we have a chat and talk a bit of footy. I wish he’d signed.
“Will it be a distraction for him? He’s the kind of bloke who says put the spotlight on me. I want to be focused on. He’s just as likely to have his best season ever. If he does, his price goes through the roof.
"He’s maximising his earning potential, there’s no real other way to look at it. He probably will stay at Hawthorn for less than what he could get on the open market."