IF HAWTHORN was not scary enough in Saturday's Grand Final, the rest of the competition needs to prepare itself for the strong possibility the premier's defence will be strengthened by the addition of Melbourne free agent James Frawley in 2015.

In recent weeks, Geelong has been widely seen as the most likely new home for Frawley in 2015, with many believing the key defender would join close mate and former Melbourne teammate Jared Rivers at the Cattery.

However, AFL.com.au understands Hawthorn has emerged as the frontrunner to secure Frawley's services when the free agency period opens next Friday (October 3).

Frawley is yet to inform Melbourne that he is leaving but Demons chief executive Peter Jackson said recently the fact the defender had yet to recommit to the club meant it was "a fair conclusion" he was leaving.

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Geelong and Fremantle remain in the race for Frawley's services, but the Hawks have shortened dramatically as his likely new home.

It is believed Geelong is running a close second to Hawthorn, but the Dockers are only an outside chance of luring the Victorian to Perth.

Hawthorn football boss Chris Fagan downplayed talk that the Hawks were in the box seat to land Frawley, 26, when he spoke to AFL.com.au after the Hawks' 63-point Grand Final win over the Sydney Swans.

"We haven't chatted to James for ages so I don't really know where he's at with his decision-making," Fagan said.

"There's been lots of talk about it, but he's probably the only bloke that knows.

"So we'll probably have to wait and see over the next week or two what happens."

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Clubs cannot make an official offer to Frawley until the free agency period opens.

The defender is an unrestricted free agent, which means Melbourne does not have the right to keep him by matching a rival offer.

It had been widely expected that Frawley would be a restricted free agent when the AFL released its official free agency list ahead of the 2014 season.

Frawley was one of the highest-paid players at the Demons over the course of his recently expired contract, but that deal was heavily front-ended and his 2014 salary took him outside the club's top 25 per cent highest-paid players – one of the requirements of restricted free agency.

Hawthorn’s decision to target Frawley could have ramifications for veteran key defender Brian Lake, who is yet to make a decision on his future after winning his second premiership medallion on Saturday.

The former Bulldog, 32, is uncontracted for next season.

On Sunday, Hawk Jordan Lewis praised Hawthorn's backline for shutting down the Swans' potent attack, and played a straight bat when asked if Frawley would fit into the team's’ defence.
"I think if you saw our backline work yesterday they were pretty good," he said.
"He's obviously a player that is out there on the market. Whether Graham Wright and our recruiting staff see he's the right fit for our club is a decision they will make in the near future."