UNDERSTANDING where Hawthorn is at has been a dart-throwing, reactionary exercise since Alastair Clarkson's men slumped to a 1-5 record only two years ago.

Years of doom were initially predicted.

Typically, the Hawks responded with nine wins and a draw from the final 16 matches that season.

Outspoken club president Jeff Kennett announced a bold 2050 vision in December that year, declaring they wanted to win seven more premierships in the next 33 seasons.

The blueprint had two of those in the Waverley Park trophy case by 2022.

Back to reality, Hawthorn was again inside the top four by the end of the 2018 home and away season, as a series of players hoped publicly in the pre-season.

In between, it was dubbed the fastest rebuild of all-time.

Sounds great, but the Hawks were dumped out of the finals in straight sets and it then became known as a 'false' top-four finish. Whatever that means.

Hawthorn did Hawthorn things in the resultant Telstra AFL Trade Period, nabbing Tom Scully and 2016 top-10 draft pick Jack Scrimshaw for effectively a packet of chips.

Big-name recruit Chad Wingard came at a higher price, including young gun Ryan Burton.

There were explanations for the bargain-basement deals in the Scully and Scrimshaw cases, yet they ran out together in the Hawks' round two side this year.

Wingard joined them a week later after a calf setback spoiled an otherwise strong pre-season and a hamstring injury mid-season interrupted his campaign further.

But there was a more significant moment before the season even began, with reigning Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell breaking his left leg and missing the entire year.

Significant, too, was there was no such top-four talk on season eve, previously a staple in Clarkson's arsenal.

Hawthorn had a 5-9 record at one stage, worse even than 2017, when the Hawks were 6-8 through 14 games.

There were issues with scoring, too, and it wasn't until the last two rounds they posted triple-digit tallies.

By then, Hawthorn had claimed victories in six of its final eight matches to narrowly miss out on the finals.

Jarman Impey sustained an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in the same period and is set to miss most of next season.

The Hawks scooped up a second winged Giant in as many seasons in Jon Patton – albeit months since he's been able to fully train after his third knee reconstruction – and former Demon Sam Frost.

Ex-Bomber Michael Hartley is also on the way. And, of course, irrepressible ball magnet Mitchell will, fingers crossed, be ready to go from round one year.

Out went Jarryd Roughead and Ryan Schoenmakers (retired), Grant Birchall (Brisbane) and Marc Pittonet (Carlton), who had clearly grown tired of waiting in the ruck wings.

That's what we know.

If anything in Hawthorn's post-golden era has proven, it's foolhardy to be too vigorous – in the positive or negative – with any summation of the club's results.

There haven't been any grand highs, and there's always been a response when things threatened to be dire.

Rugged midfielder James Worpel, a couple of months shy of turning 21, is already a club champion.

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The (Peter Crimmins Medal winning) Worpedo. #Always

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Patton will have a fellow almost-200cm giant in the forward line alongside him in 21-year-old Mitch Lewis, while James Sicily, Jaeger O'Meara and Blake Hardwick are in their prime.

Frost and Hartley should help unleash Sicily for more attacking duties from half-back.

Scully, Wingard, Scrimshaw, Jack Gunston and Luke Breust should be better, and the likes of Harry Morrison, Dylan Moore, Ollie Hanrahan, Jackson Ross, Changkuoth Jiath and Mathew Walker will want to make their mark.

Sprinkle in the experienced Isaac Smith, Liam Shiels, Jon Ceglar, Ben McEvoy, James Frawley, Ricky Henderson, Shaun Burgoyne and Paul Puopolo, and there is a competitive nucleus.

Is it a premiership-winning list? Could they miss the finals again? Not having the answer is the fun of it.