Hawthorn Zooming Into 2023

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With the AFL National Draft completed, this week the Hawthorn Football Club through the use of ZOOM, held a member’s only event to discuss plenty, including the draft, the players selected and also the upcoming 2023 season to help build up excitement for the plan for the future.

Heading into the National Draft last week, Hawthorn held six picks and were looking to add to the brigade of young players who had exceptional skills and talents, both on the field and also off the field through their leadership.

This was to be the first time since 2009 that Hawthorn had used four draft picks in the draft, showing that the club has it’s eye on bringing in exceptional young talent that will compliment the likes of Newcombe, Moore, Sicily, Day and Lewis. 

In the lead up to the draft, Mark McKenzie and Sam Mitchell sat down to discuss what the intentions of the club were for the draft, and while Hawthorn held one pick in the first round of the draft (Pick 6), Sam Mitchell was keen to get another pick in the first round that could be used to select exceptional talent.

The first Hawk in the draft was Cameron Mackenzie, a lifelong Hawthorn supporter, who was considered by Hawthorn recruitment manager Mark McKenzie as being the “the best fit for the club and the most rounded midfielder in the draft” with his ability to find the ball, averaging 24 touches for both Sandringham and Vic Metro, while also pushing forward and hitting the scoreboard.

Mackenzie (Mark) on the Zoom call said that Cam is aiming to play as early on in 2023 as possible and is looking to increase his frame to be able to play more of an inside game at the highest level.

The second of our draftees was Josh Weddle, selected in a trade with the Swans, after the Swans sensationally landed a couple of bids way earlier than expected, with Adelaide paying up for lockdown defender Max Michalanney and GWS for midfielder Harry Rowston. 

To select Weddle with Pick 18 of the draft, Hawthorn had to trade away their Pick 27, a future second and a future third-round selection. Cal Twomey revealed on AFL.com.au that the Hawks started trying to get into the bottom end of the first round approaching Melbourne, Giants and the Swans from Pick 16.  

Cameron Mackenzie of Hawthorn poses for a photo during the 2022 AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium on November 28, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia.
Cam MacKenzie is ready to get into a (hopeful) long Hawthorn career } Getty Images

Mitchell, McKenzie and his team had a plan, with Mitchell stating that he had asked McKenzie to aim for both Cam Mackenzie and Josh Weddle while having dinner the night before night one of the draft.

While the trading of future draft picks is often considered a risky proposition, Mark McKenzie and Sam Mitchell have selected a player who has a rare athletic profile in that he is able to play as a tall defender, but also in the midfield and on a wing, where he played his junior football.

With future father-son and expected teen selection Will McCabe coming in 2023, the Hawks traded away future assets stopping them being absorbed in matching points for McCabe and allowing the Hawks to move up in a win-win move.

His figures in the AFL Draft Combine were through the roof and he was clearly the best athlete in the draft. 

2022 AFL Draft Victorian-Based Players Media Opportunity
Trading up in the Draft, the Hawks nabbed the athletic beast in Josh Weddle } Getty Images

He was considered so highly by Hawthorn, with Sam sees him as being able to play in a similar mould to the Cats’ Mark Blicavs, in that his height and athleticism will allow him to play multiple positions around the ground.

The third selection at the draft was Henry Hustwaite, who was selected with Pick 37. 

The young 194 cm utility was spoken of incredibly highly by McKenzie for his excellent ball use, his power, footy smarts and his clean hands.

The Hawthorn recruitment team were rapt that he slid as low as he did and believe that he has excellent qualities that will be vital for the team going forward in the future.

He was a part of a Dandenong Stingrays squad that experts gave no chance of going far in the NAB League but they finished runner up in a fantastic season.

When speaking about our fourth draftee on the night, being the 46th pick in Jack O’Sullivan, McKenzie noted his toughness and ability to use the ball cleanly. 

This year O’Sullivan had an interrupted season, especially with breaking his collarbone twice but the club is confident that he has plenty of upside and with any luck in continuity, will be able to improve his skills and push for a debut later on in the year.

While Hawthorn walked into the draft with four picks on the night, a player that Sam Mitchell stated was “one of the fastest players he has seen” was still available, so using a future fourth round selection to move back into the 2022 draft to select bolter Bailey Macdonald.

“B-Mac” had shown through his games of footy at Wesley College and then playing for Vic Metro that he had speed to burn, with his run and gun style off half-back making him a real eye catcher that could develop his game at Hawthorn, with the hope of him being able to ply his trade through half back and potentially on the wing.

Henry Hustwaite of the Stingrays in action during the NAB League Grand Final match between the Sandringham Dragons and the Dandenong Stingrays at...
Likened to Scott Pendlebury, Henry Hustwaite is the smooth mover the Hawks need } Getty Images

After their successful draft haul in the draft, the Hawks were intent on continuing to bolster their youthful squad through their Next Generation Academy, by selecting Josh Bennett from Eastern Ranges via the Rookie Draft. 

The Category B Rookie won the B&F for Eastern Rangers, averaged 19 disposals and a goal per game this season, where he showed his ability to make excellent decisions with the ball.

The list of elite attributes that this Hawthorn draft class possesses was highlighted by Mark McKenzie and Sam Mitchell in this Zoom call to members on 6 December.

We’ll leave you with this list to ponder as we look forward to 2023 with you:

  • Cam MacKenzie – Well-rounded mid
  • Josh Weddle – Most athletic
  • Henry Hustwaite – Best Handballer (left or right) and very composed
  • Bailey MacDonald – Fastest
  • Jack O’Sullivan – Most aggressive
  • Josh Bennett – Composed

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