HAWTHORN’S come-from-behind win over Essendon is proof of the club’s rebuild continuing to take shape, according to four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson.
The Hawks turned around a 39-point deficit at half-time to claim a thrilling one-point win on Saturday night, with Tim O'Brien's goal in the final two minutes lifting his side over the Bombers at Marvel Stadium.
BOMBERS v HAWKS Full match coverage and stats
Clarkson is steering the club through its generational shift, with a number of younger Hawks, including Will Day, Changkuoth Jiath, Dylan Moore and Tyler Brockman, playing vital roles in the win over the Bombers.
After last year's 15th-placed finish, the Hawks are preparing for another season of regenerating their list, but Clarkson said the club still needs to put results on the board.
"We've been here twice before. When we talk like this it's by no means suggesting that 'Oh we're going down the bottom'. We want to win, and we proved today that we can win," he said post-game.
"We've beaten the Western Bulldogs in a scrimmage game and the Kangaroos and Essendon today so we're not on a path where we just say 'Let's just drop away for a while'. We want to win and we're injecting some young players because there was a lot of 30-year-old plus for our club that moved out of our club through retirement or to other clubs last year.
"There's a real energy and excitement around the youth that we've got and the opportunities they're going to get, and we want to accelerate that program as quickly as we possibly can and get ourselves up to the pointy end of the ladder.
"But we know that's going to take a little bit of time and we have no ceiling on when that's going to happen. We want it to happen as quickly as we can."
Clarkson credited midfield tyros Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O'Meara and Liam Shiels for starting the turnaround in the third term, with the Hawks slamming on 11 goals to three for the second half to take the win. He said the group still believed at half-time it could win.
"In the end Essendon are stiff to lose, we're lucky to win. Close games like that are just a flip of the coin when it's a tale of two halves in essence. We're really proud of our boys that, despite a horrible second quarter, they were able to bounce in the second half and get themselves back in the game," he said.
His Essendon counterpart Ben Rutten, in his first official outing at the helm, said his group hadn't suffered from complacency after getting off to a flying start to the game.
"The second quarter in particular is the style of footy we've been training and what we've been working on, and the guys are really disappointed because they know what they're capable of and they went away from it in the second half. There's some really good lessons in there for us," Rutten said.
The Bombers blooded debutants Nik Cox and Harry Jones, who both impressed across the night, while recruits Peter Wright, Jye Caldwell and Nick Hind were also all important in a new-look line-up under Rutten.
"There's a lot of growth in us, but we want to fast-track that as quick as we possibly can," he said.
Jake Stringer returned to the field on Saturday in a VFL practice match and the exciting goalkicker will be considered for next week's trip to face Port Adelaide after overcoming an Achilles injury.