WHAT a wild season for the Hawks. Starting with a come-from-behind win over arch-rivals Essendon in the opening round, rolling through some dreary middle rounds and then coming to life in the final six weeks following the announcement it would be Alastair Clarkson's last season at the helm. Hawthorn unearthed some fresh talent it hopes will carry it into the Sam Mitchell era.

What worked

Widely regarded as one of the least talented lists in the competition prior to the season, the Hawks went about changing that narrative by exposing its younger players for extended stretches. Changkuoth Jiath, Dylan Moore, Jacob Koschitzke and mid-season recruit Lachie Bramble all excelled given opportunities, while No.6 draft pick Denver Grainger-Barras got supporters excited once finding his way into the senior team. The Hawks have a bit to like in their under-23 department.

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Out of finals? We review your team's 2021 season

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What failed

They really struggled to score. There's a couple of reasons for that, notably the Hawks were equal 16th for inside 50s, so the forwards didn't have as many looks as their opponents. The absence of Jack Gunston all season through injury didn't help, nor did missing Mitch Lewis for stretches. How the ball movement (particularly from stoppages where the Hawks have good inside ball-winners) changes will be interesting to watch next year.

MVP

Averaging in excess of 34 disposals a game, it's hard to go past Tom Mitchell. The 2017 Brownlow medallist was back to something approaching his best form with his clean hands around stoppages and earned a spot in the Therabody AFL All-Australian squad of 40. Jaeger O'Meara deserves recognition here for his best season in Hawks colours.

Surprise packet

Prior to this season Changkuoth Jiath had played just seven games, so what he produced in 2021 was quite incredible. From the opening round against the Bombers, Jiath excited fans with his dashing play from defence, strong hands overhead and willingness to take the game on. He's now a long-term lock in the back six.

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Jiath brilliance lands another Hawthorn major

Young Hawk Changkuoth Jiath shows his class to hand Jacob Koschtzke his third first-quarter major

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Disappointment

More so because of injury than poor form, seeing Will Day play just five games was a real downer. Third in last year's NAB AFL Rising Star award, Day required ankle surgery early in the year and battled to get back. He's an integral part of the defensive unit and would love to get a full season under his belt in 2022.

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Best moment

Although the game itself was a fizzer, Shaun Burgoyne running out for the 400th time against Port Adelaide in round 16 was a wonderful moment. He became just the fifth player in League history to hit the milestone – something that seemed out of range many times during his decorated career. Oddly enough, the round 18 draw against Melbourne was also a highlight, snatching points against the premiership favourites and laying he platform for a withering finish to the season.

Shaun Burgoyne is chaired off by Travis Boak and Liam Shiels after his 400th AFL game. Picture: AFL Photos

Low point

The succession plan turned handing over of coaching duties from Alastair Clarkson to Sam Mitchell into hands down the worst moment of the year. Not only was it a shambles from a management and public relations perspective, but also a sad way to exit one of the greatest coaches in history.

Alastair Clarkson and Sam Mitchell chat during the Hawks' round 20, 2021 win. Picture: AFL Photos

How should they approach list management?

There's quite a bit of sub-text to this, but ultimately the primary need should be to accumulate as many high-end draft picks as possible over the next two seasons. Whether that's using senior players like Jack Gunston or Chad Wingard as capital to acquire more picks or simply taking the current selections, adding to the high-end young talent of Day and Grainger-Barras is key. There's no need to chase players from elsewhere while the list takes shape.

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Early call for 2022

The post-Clarkson era will be fascinating. Although not much will be expected of Mitchell in his first season, the way the Hawks finished 2021 will draw quick comparisons with the master coach if they get off to a slow start. Realistically, a similar ladder position to this year should be the expectation.

Overall rating

5.5 out of 10 – Were usually very competitive and unearthed some talent along the way.