Mabior Chol, Jack Ginnivan and Massimo D'Ambrosio pose for a photo after Hawthorn's win over North Melbourne in round six, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

AFTER Hawthorn ran second for free agent Ben McKay and trade targets Esava Ratugolea and Liam Henry last year, the Hawks made a pivot.

The Hawks, having also been in the hunt for Lachie Schultz before he made the shock decision to seek a trade to Collingwood, moved to plan B.

But the plan B has turned out to be more than effective as the club moves into its next phase of acquisition.

Instead of landing their key targets last year, the Hawks instead found their 'win builders', players who have joined, succeeded and helped them grow their tally of wins to be a much more appealing option for the in-demand players a year on.

In Jack Ginnivan, Mabior Chol, Massimo D'Ambrosio and the returning Jack Gunston, the Hawks' trade haul of 2023 was pieced together on the final day of the period. 

But the effect has been significant. Former Bomber D'Ambrosio is one of the most improved players in the competition, lifting his AFL Player Rating points from 3.7 in 2023 to 10.6 this season (the third highest rated wingman in the competition behind Sydney pair Errol Gulden and Justin McInerney). 


Ex-Sun Chol has kicked 22 goals and had 15 score assists as well as recording 26 inside-50 tackles – behind only Melbourne's Kade Chandler (27) for the most in the AFL – while premiership Magpie Ginnivan has kicked 17 goals but averaged a career-high 16 disposals, well up on his career average of 9.4 before joining the Hawks. 

Gunston, too, has added some experience to the Hawks' forward mix and has taken 29 marks inside 50 (18th in the AFL) despite missing four games. 

Hawks coach Sam Mitchell had eight wins in his first season in 2022 before seven last year. Already with eight wins this campaign, the Hawks will easily eclipse last year's tally even if they don't make a return to the top eight. They are 13th, but are the only team in football history to be in that ladder position with a positive win-loss record, according to Champion Data. 

The players brought in at the end of last season have all added to the Hawks' picture and shown the list strategy to move on the run last October to add 'win builders' to bolster the W column.

Sam Mitchell looks on during Hawthorn's clash against Adelaide in round 12, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

It now sees the Hawks well in the fight for St Kilda's unrestricted free agent Josh Battle, with revealing their interest earlier this year and their six-year offer to the defender last week

They are also in the mix for Greater Western Sydney unrestricted free agent Harry Perryman, who is weighing hot interest from Port Adelaide and Adelaide as well as the Giants in retaining him, and as revealed on Gettable last month, are in a two-horse race for Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith with Geelong. 

The uplift in form will also see the Hawks be more open to trading their first-round pick this year, as Mitchell forecast earlier this year, given they have stocked up on seven first-round picks in the past five years. 


Often around trade time discussion sits on whether certain acquisitions will be a part of a club's next premiership team. In the case of the Hawks' haul last year, some might and some might not. But sometimes, finding 'win builders' is just as important to get a club more in the conversation with the A-grade talents. 

The proof may be in the upcoming off-season for the Hawks, who are cashed up, in form and with a young core, with some experienced additions who have met their job descriptions.