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COMMENT: Why it's time for the Hawks to strike

Port Adelaide star Chad Wingard wants to be traded to Hawthorn - AFL,Hawthorn Hawks,Draft,Alastair Clarkson,Trade
Port Adelaide star Chad Wingard wants to be traded to Hawthorn

WHAT would have been Hawthorn's highest draft pick since Cyril Rioli 11 years ago will be in another club's hands in the coming days in an all-too-familiar scenario. 

The Hawks' No.15 selection will likely be part of any deal that lures Port Adelaide gun Chad Wingard and also in their sights is Greater Western Sydney jet Tom Scully, arguably the AFL's best two-way runner. 

Their link to Wingard, 25, and Scully, 27, not only proves they remain a destination club, but that they are confident they can quickly contend – and maybe as soon as next year.

Shaun Burgoyne, 36, Jarryd Roughead, 32 in January, Paul Puopolo, 31 in December, Birchall, 31 in January, James Frawley, 30, Isaac Smith, 30 in December, Ben Stratton, 30 in March, and Ben McEvoy, 30 in July, are still critical to the team's fortunes.

Ricky Henderson, who turned 30 in September, provided run and carry for Hawthorn in the past two years, but is out of contract and might be pushed out if Scully arrives. 

Several of that group could be entering their final season in 2019, so the time to strike is now if they are to be part of another flag.

Jeff Kennett's well-worn story about how he told Alastair Clarkson his expectations for 2018 were just to make the finals, before the coaching mastermind responded with "Mine is to win" sums up Clarkson's mindset. 

The four-time premiership coach always thinks his playing group is a chance, saying at Saturday night's Peter Crimmins Medal function that he had "genuine belief" they could "do something special again".

Have the ageing Hawks got another flag tilt left in them? Picture: AFL Photos

That's why it was so dangerous when commentators took joy in Hawthorn whiffing on trade targets Tom Lynch (Richmond) and Dylan Shiel (Essendon), Scully's housemate and fellow ex-Dandenong Stingray. 

AFL.com.au understands the Bombers were in the Scully race, too, until they won Shiel's signature, leaving them without the salary cap space to fit them both in. 

The Hawks quite clearly see value in how highly rivals rate first-round picks and the potential to parlay them into experienced, proven top-end talent.

"For some clubs, Grand Final day is towards the end of November and that's because they've got all these high draft picks, but that's never been our go," Clarkson said in April.

"Our go is to put together a list and we'll do that whichever way we think is best for the footy club. 

"That's sometimes through the draft, but sometimes it's through trading and free agency."

Rioli was the 12th overall draft pick in 2007 and Hawthorn's only top-20 selections since were Ryan Schoenmakers (No.16 in 2008), Isaac Smith (No.19 in 2010) and Ryan Burton (No.19 in 2015). 

In between, they turned first-round choices – among other selections coming in and going out – most recently into Jaeger O'Meara, but also for Tom Mitchell, Jack Gunston, Shaun Burgoyne, Ben McEvoy, Brian Lake and Jono O'Rourke. 

Don't be fooled into thinking the Hawks' success hasn't been built in the draft, either. 

There are many examples of terrific draft insight within the current squad: Birchall, Luke Breust, Burton, Blake Hardwick, Dan Howe, Harry Morrison, Liam Shiels, Smith, Stratton, James Sicily and James Worpel. 

Any holes along Clarkson's way to four premierships were always patched at the trade table, as he and Hawthorn are in the process of doing once more.