DID HAWTHORN delist its ideal replacement for Tom Mitchell three months ago?
After two senior games and three years into life as an inside midfielder stuck behind both Mitchells – Sam and Tom – Kieran Lovell was cut by the Hawks at season's end.
Following news of Mitchell's broken leg on Friday – an injury expected to keep him out of action for the entire 2019 season – Lovell could present as one of a number of options.
The Hawks will be afforded more flexibility than ever before.
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Under the new pre-season supplemental selection period (SSP), they will be allowed to sign an additional player before March 15 – should they deem Mitchell's 2019 campaign done.
To replace a player that won the Brownlow Medal, a second best and fairest and collected 90 more clearances than his next best teammate in 2018, is something the club will consider.
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Like Carlton, who added two players to its training squad after Sam Docherty's season-ending ACL tear, the Hawks have turned to Box Hill forward-ruck Ned Reeves as a potential to fill Will Langford's spot and have the chance to go again.
With Lovell and Jono O'Rourke cut and Langford – a player who averaged 4.6 clearances a game as a 22-year-old in 2014 – gone, the Mitchell-less Hawks onball brigade appears skinny.
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If Lovell – who at 174cm was confined to an inside midfield role at Waverley Park – was still on the list, he'd be next in line to fill Mitchell's role.
The 21-year-old has returned home and signed for Kingborough in the Tasmanian State League, the club where he played senior football before he was selected in the first round in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft.
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While rules stipulate a player delisted by a club can't be re-listed in the same SSP, Lovell qualifies for the Hawks having re-nominated for the 2018 draft.
Others up for consideration include Mitch Grigg (Norwood), Jye Bolton (Claremont) and Michael Gibbons (Williamstown), all winners of respective state league best and fairests in 2018.
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While the trio were overlooked in the most recent drafts they would insert what Mitchell provides – first possession from a stoppage.
At the Hawks, Tom Scully will be a major asset on a wing when fit, however there's still no guarantee he'll feature in 2019, still recovering from a major broken ankle.
Lovell in action for Box Hill. Picture: AFL Photos
And while Chad Wingard can provide a burst through the midfield, the priority will be for him to play in attack playing a role where he was a dual All Australian in 2013 and 2015.
Behind potential captain Liam Shiels, Jaeger O'Meara and Shaun Burgoyne – who finished second, third and fourth for Hawks' clearances behind Mitchell in 2018 – the inside options are limited to youth.
Second-year bull James Worpel was asked to trim down at season's end ahead of a year where the Hawks plan on him playing more than his 11 games from his debut season.
Taking the No.5 made famous by now assistant coach Sam Mitchell, his time split between midfield and attack may need to be increased in the centre square.
Tagger Daniel Howe has shown a tendency to play inside, while Jarman Impey, Harry Morrison and James Cousins could provide options for Alastair Clarkson.
The last time the Hawks missed a midfield star of Tom Mitchell's quality came in 2014 when Sam Mitchell sat out 12 games before returning for the premiership triumph over Sydney.
However, this time around the class of Jordan Lewis and Luke Hodge to fill the void are a distant memory and Clarkson will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks to revive a midfield without its No.1 man.