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Why shipping off Burton for Chad was the right call for the Hawks

Hawks fire and Wingard goals Chad Wingard kicks a snap to put the Hawks 19 points ahead

IF ONE thing's become crystal clear at the Hawks this year, it's that they made the right call to ship off Ryan Burton and bring in Chad Wingard. 

That deal was probably the most polarising of last year's NAB AFL Trade Period, with many of Hawthorn's fans bemoaning the loss of arguably the club's most promising young talent.

There was also the not-so-small matter of offloading another first-round draft pick. The Hawks were already an old team and became even older out of this. 

Meanwhile, Port Adelaide selected the highly promising Xavier Duursma with that choice. 

Alternatively, Wingard fits into the same age demographic as new teammates Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O'Meara and James Sicily – a group that may be bolstered by Stephen Coniglio. 

The easy analysis at this stage of the trade fallout is to label Hawthorn's decision a failure, given it's plummeted on the ladder, Wingard's suffered four soft-tissue setbacks (calf and hamstring) and Burton's returned to somewhere near his 2017 numbers.

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Wingard's been undeniably mediocre in the seven games he's played this year, too – at least partly a byproduct of his fitness – as he settles into the role of being Cyril Rioli's replacement. 

Critics will also point out that his two All Australian campaigns were four and six years ago, despite him being only four weeks from turning 26.

Let's get logical now that's all out of the way.

If there's one thing the Hawks have a surplus of, it's defenders who can play in a similar vein to Burton, which may somewhat explain him plateauing last year. 

Burton was left on the outer at Waverley. Picture: AFL Photos

James Sicily, for one, has seamlessly slid over to play on key forwards more often since Burton's departure – and without losing his elite rebounding skills.

On top of that, Jack Scrimshaw, a top-10 draftee in 2016, joined Hawthorn via Gold Coast two days before the Wingard-Burton trade went through.

Scrimshaw, who boasts a neat and creative left foot, is injured at the moment but is averaging 16.2 disposals and 1.9 intercept marks down back in his nine senior games. 

Jarman Impey is also enjoying the best season of his career as a full-time defender, transforming himself into an intercepting threat who can turn defence into offence in the blink of an eye.

For all the deserved talk about Ricky Henderson, Impey's been so good he may well be rivalling the prolific wingman for the Hawks' club champion award. 

All Australian Grant Birchall could add to the glut as well if he can remain on the field once he inevitably breaks into the AFL side (maybe as early as this week). 

On the flipside, Rioli's retirement was just one reason there was urgency for a small forward recruit. 

The Hawks were desperate to land Wingard. Picture: AFL Photos

The shortage in this area was highlighted when they signed delisted free agent Darren Minchington.

Triple premiership player Paul Puopolo turns 32 this year, is out of contract, has kicked two goals in his past nine games and is likely headed for retirement. 

Puopolo, Luke Breust and mobile tall forward Jack Gunston combined for a lacklustre eight goals across the past four matches.

They were all Hawthorn losses, a period in which the team averaged only 69 points (ranked 16th). 

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Ollie Hanrahan and Dylan Moore are among the younger Hawks options, but coach Alastair Clarkson was left reminiscing watching West Coast's goalsneaks wreak havoc at the weekend.

"They've got two dangerous forwards in (Jack) Darling and (Josh) Kennedy, so there's always a tendency you're going to have too many fly against them," Clarkson said. 

"When you've got little fellas like (Willie) Rioli, (Liam) Ryan, (Jarrod) Cameron and (Jamie) Cripps and these guys at ground level, if you don't impact in the air you're going to be in strife at ground level. 

"That's a real strength of the West Coast side. It's been a strength of the Hawthorn side through our successful era as well – good competitive talls, and really dangerous smalls." 

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That's the other problem.

Missing out on eventual Tiger Tom Lynch hurt Hawthorn's rebuilding plans, although lightly played target Mitch Lewis offers genuine promise despite him being in the VFL the past fortnight. 

Burton, who stands 191cm and has spent time forward as a junior and in the AFL, would not have solved this. 

 

There were some whispers of the Hawks' interest in Gold Coast's Peter Wright before he re-signed, while in-contract Giant Jon Patton's long been linked to them.

Mitchell's return from a broken leg – probably next season – will help overall, as will, in time, fellow midfielder and looming recruit Finn Maginness, who Hawthorn can secure as a father-son pick.

There's plenty to play out with the list, but don't second-guess Wingard's recruitment. However it ends up, it was the right call.