HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson has defended the state of his list and effectively ruled out trading star forward Jack Gunston as he tries to plot the club's next premiership dynasty. 

Clarkson, one of the all-time coaching greats, is into his 13th year at the helm, having already guided the Hawks to flags in 2008 and 2013-2015, but his toughest test may still be to come.

Star Hawk discusses trade talk

Hawthorn's preference in the past decade for swapping first-round draft picks for established players will again see club officials selecting after the highest-rated talent is gone this year.

It follows the Hawks' much-scrutinised decision last year to offload two of their champions, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis – after they placed top two in the best and fairest – for little in return.

The fact many of Hawthorn's premier footballers are advanced in age has prompted some to suggest 25-year-old Gunston could be used as quality trade bait. 

Gunston's role has changed slightly this season, with Jarryd Roughead's return and the presence of James Sicily, Tim O'Brien and Ty Vickery pushing him further afield. 

But Clarkson on Friday as good as shut the door on Gunston being shopped in the post-season trade period. The triple premiership player is contracted until the end of the 2019 campaign. 

"Those guys who have played anywhere from 100 to 200 games are critical for the next wave of players for your footy club (with) their leadership," Clarkson said. 

"It's those guys that need to carry our club forward, so we'd be pretty loathe to lose any of those guys. It's been mooted in the press about Gunston and (Paul) Puopolo and others and they're the last guys we want to see leaving the footy club. 

"They're all contracted, anyway, so I think it would be highly, highly unlikely that those guys would be moving away from the club."

There has been much doom and gloom reported about the Hawks' playing stocks, particularly in its next wave of talent, but Clarkson remains as defiant as ever about his team's direction.

"I don't think it's (too) dissimilar to 2009-10, when all those guys like Hodge and Lewis and Mitchell were about that (100 to 150-game) mark," he said.

"No-one knew anything about Luke Breust, who was a rookie-list player. No-one really knew too much about Paul Puopolo, except he was a mature-aged lad from Norwood and would he cut the mustard. 

"But then they turned into three-time premiership players and you think, 'How could we have ever doubted them at that point in time?'" 

Ryan Burton is the cream of Hawthorn's emerging crop, which includes Daniel Howe, Blake Hardwick, Teia Miles, Kade Stewart, James Cousins, Kieran Lovell and Marc Pittonet, who are all 21 or younger.

"We've got some young kids coming through who are just like the young Puopolos and the young Breusts and the young (Isaac) Smiths and these guys," Clarkson said.

"We've got a crew of 150-gamers – it's now their responsibility to carry the club forward. 

"We are giving lots of opportunities to (young players) at the present time, because of some of the injuries we've got, and that's outstanding for them and outstanding for us that they get that exposure." 

Clarkson is yet to make a decision on whether ruckman Jon Ceglar and mercurial forward Cyril Rioli, who are both out with long-term injuries, will return this season.