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Can the Hawks make it four in a row?

Travis King and Callum Twomey  January 13, 2016 8:00 AM

AFL 2015 Media - Hawthorn Family Day

Luke Hodge with Hawthorn's past three premiership cups

No

Can the Hawks go back to the well one more time? Absolutely. Will they? Maybe. But let's not hand over the silverware just yet.
 
Such is Hawthorn's recent Grand Final dominance that no opponent – especially another non-Victorian team – would relish facing the brown-and-gold machine on October 1, 2016.
 
But plenty still has to go right before Hawks fans can start chanting "Fourthorn" at the MCG next spring.
 
In the wake of last year's demolition job against West Coast, it's easy to forget that the Hawks have been pushed to the limit in recent finals series.
 
From 2012-14, they escaped from three prelims by less than a kick.
 
Last year, after stumbling to a 4-4 record early in the season, they suffered their first finals defeat since 2012.
 
History shows Alastair Clarkson's men were good enough when it counted, but also that they aren't unbeatable.
 
With another season of being every opponent's measuring stick on the horizon, how much longer can their ageing warriors – still so critical to their team's fortunes - defy Father Time?
 
The Hawks' track record managing their champions is impeccable but form and fitness can be fickle, while retirees Brian Lake and David Hale have already left sizeable holes in the premiership puzzle.
 
Is Kaiden Brand ready to step into Lake's shoes and will Matt Spangher's body hold up?
 
Can Ryan Schoenmakers continue his late-season form and establish himself at centre half-forward?
 
Are the next generation of midfielders ready to shoulder more of the load carried by Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge?
 
Hawthorn fans have every reason to be optimistic, but rival clubs will believe they can make up some ground next season, and the top four race seems wide open.
 
The Eagles, Fremantle and the Swans will be confident of holding their ground while Port, a rejuvenated Geelong, Adelaide, North Melbourne and Richmond – among others – will surely be eyeing the top end of the ladder.
 
If the Hawks can secure the double-chance once again, then their juggernaut will certainly take some stopping.
 
But let's not inscribe their 14th premiership cup yet. - Travis King

Yes

Hawthorn has defied the odds in each of their past three premiership years, so is there really any reason to think they can't go again for an historic fourth consecutive flag?

The Hawks would elevate themselves into the rarest of air by taking out the 2016 premiership. They would join the Collingwood side of 1927-30 to claim four straight flags, and in the process become probably the greatest team in football history.

For anyone questioning the motivation levels of this side, that surely is enough of a driving force to push Alastair Clarkson's team towards another finals series.

It's also hard to pinpoint where the Hawks will drop away. They have lost some valuable experience and poise in defence, with Brian Lake retiring and Matt Suckling departing as a free agent to the Western Bulldogs.

But there are going to be more opportunities for players who have lived on the fringes over the last couple of years like exciting forward James Sicily, third tall backman Dan Howe and exciting prospect Tim O'Brien.

Midfielders Billy Hartung and Jono O'Rourke will also be keen to break into the team that comfortably overcame West Coast in last year's Grand Final.  

Hawthorn's champion but ageing midfield will need to expand and explore some new things to stay on top. But last season Sam Mitchell was an All Australian, Jordan Lewis is in his peak and captain Luke Hodge continues to fire.

It must also be said that for the Hawks to drop, other clubs will need to lift. Who will it be? West Coast? Fremantle? Port Adelaide? Geelong? There are more questions on these sides than the reigning premiers. Let's stick with what we know, and the Hawks know how to win premierships. - Callum Twomey