HAWTHORN'S fast start to last season led to suggestions the club had changed the way to rebuild.
The Hawks' decision to move on established and experienced stars, and to turn to free agency and trades to revamp their list, saw them win five of their first seven games of 2018 and appear a flag threat.
BOMBERS HOME AGAINST HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
They made the top four but were out of the premiership race within two weeks after back-to-back losses in the finals.
Their middling start to 2019, including a 19-point loss to Essendon on Friday night, paints a less rosy picture of their future.
But a dip down the ladder is not necessarily a bad thing for the Hawks, who are now 5-7 and holding only faint top-eight hopes.
It is time for Hawthorn to hit the draft. Should their form line continue and they miss the finals, the Hawks will head to the draft with a top-10 pick for the first time in 13 years (since they selected Mitch Thorp with pick No.6 in 2006). They should use it.
Hawthorn, with four flags, is the most successful club of the 21st century. But because of that sustained position near the top of the ladder, the Hawks lack for top-end young talent.
'I'VE GOT A COUPLE OF BRUISES' Hawks skipper under fire for pinching
Of their players 24 or under, James Sicily is a star and James Worpel looks like being a long-term midfield bull. Worpel was magnificent against the Bombers with 34 disposals and seven clearances.
Mitchell Lewis, although dropped for the Essendon clash, has shown signs in attack, Jarman Impey has lifted since arriving at the club, Blake Hardwick is a trusty backman, and Dylan Moore, Harry Morrison and James Cousins have contributed in patches.
Jack Scrimshaw also looked good off half-back before injury struck, however the Hawks don't have the depth and breadth of young talent as other mid-table teams.
Hawthorn's mechanism for staying at the top has been to trade. It worked.
Having coach Alastair Clarkson at the helm and being a perennial contender has made them the destination club of the competition.
WHAT A WASTE Clarko laments Hawks' wasted 'inside-50 dominance'
For the past decade, they have been the kings of the exchange period. They landed Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson in 2009, David Hale (2010), Jack Gunston (2011), Brian Lake (2012), Ben McEvoy (2013), James Frawley (2014), Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara (2016), Impey (2017) and Tom Scully and Chad Wingard (last year).
It has been targeted and brilliant list management and kept open a flag window. But it has also meant a late start for their recruiters on draft night after shipping out early selections to land a boat's worth of big fish. It's starting to bite.
Ben Stratton leads the Hawks off Marvel Stadium. Picture: AFL Photos
The past three years, the Hawks have opened their draft intake at pick No.74 in 2016, No.45 in 2017 and No.52 last season.
Since 2006, Hawthorn has used just four top-20 picks, the last of which was Ryan Burton in 2015, who was traded to Port Adelaide last year as part of the Wingard deal.
Hawthorn doesn't need reminding of the power of a strong draft. Its era of dominance was built on the back of its 2004 haul, when they grabbed Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewis with top-10 choices.
It won't finish low enough to grab one of the top-two standouts of this year's pool – Matt Rowell or Noah Anderson (don't remind Hawks fans about trading his father Dean after 83 games with the club) – but will have access to one of an even but quality group within the top 10.