Hawks players make their way from the field after the big defeat by the Cats.
Hawks players make their way from the field after the big defeat by the Cats. JULIAN SMITH

Clarkson and Hawks facing huge challenge

THE scale of Hawthorn's rebuild has been presented squarely in front of them.

And if an 86-point loss to the Suns last week was a scare in terms of just how large the effort would be, another record 86-point defeat, this time to the Cats, was just as significant.

Starting at 0-4 for the first time since 1998, Hawthorn faces a test perhaps rivalling the biggest coach Alastair Clarkson has faced in his career.

Comprehensively outplayed by a Geelong team nowhere near its best in a scrappy first half, Hawthorn was a shadow of the side that cruised to a top-four finish in 2016.

Down in the dumps at the main break on Easter Monday, the Hawks could thank their lucky stars they weren't 10 goals down to a Cats team barely out of second gear.

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Even having started the third term with a renewed sense of effort and intensity, their hopes were quickly snuffed out in a manner Cats fans could only dream of.

Hawthorn's kids simply couldn't execute a game plan that had taken the club to four premierships in eight years - one that relies heavily on class and polish by foot.

Instead, an abundance of turnovers was capitalised on by the Cats, who would have enjoyed the opportunity to put their foot on the throat of their old rivals.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson during the loss to Geelong. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson during the loss to Geelong. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Source: AAP

The issues facing a Hawthorn side in transition are nothing new, but perhaps only now are they being fully illustrated on the back of four dismal performances.

And trying to find the players who will usher in the next generation when the likes of Luke Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson join Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis in departing the club is becoming increasingly difficult.

When Clarkson arrived at Hawthorn in 2005, he already had the foundations of the club's first premiership team at his disposal.

The Hawks had just drafted Jarryd Roughead, Lance Franklin and Lewis the year before, with Hodge, Mitchell and Brad Sewell arriving in the three years prior.

Clarkson's arrival would also coincide with Hawthorn using 11 picks inside the top 25 of the draft within a three-year period. Those picks proved crucial in building the base of the team that would take the club to the 2008 flag.


Gibson blindsides RuggleGibson blindsides Ruggle0:40

The Hawks were then able to be aggressive at the trade table in order to prolong the club's successful period, flipping top 25 draft picks for Josh Gibson, Shaun Burgoyne, Jack Gunston, Brian Lake, Ben McEvoy and Jono O'Rourke.

This time around, the Hawks - who have fielded one of the oldest teams in the competition to date - don't have such a base to build from.

Having started at Pick 74 in last year's draft and without a first-round draft selection this year (it was traded to St Kilda during last year's exchange period), the Hawks are on the cusp of completely bottoming out.

Hawthorn has not used a draft pick inside the top 19 selections in eight years - a dramatic difference from how the side built its list throughout the early 2000s.

Only in 2010 with Isaac Smith and in 2015 with Ryan Burton have the Hawks replenished with top 20 draft picks - both were taken at Pick 19.

And while Clarkson was indeed ruthless in trading out experienced players in order to acquire more early picks when he first arrived at the club - shipping out Nathan Thompson, Jonathan Hay and Peter Everitt - he might not have the currency to do similar this time around.

James Sicily was a late inclusion to Monday's team. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

James Sicily was a late inclusion to Monday's team. Picture: Wayne Ludbey

Source: News Corp Australia

Smith, Jack Gunston, Luke Breust and Cyril Rioli are among the few that would perhaps demand a first-round draft pick, however all four have penned new contracts with the club at some stage over the last 12 months.

It will make the task of trading back into the first round of this year's draft all but impossible for a side that desperately needs an injection of young talent.

That lack of youth was evident on Easter Monday, where a 32-year-old Luke Hodge was still arguably the side's best performer with 35 disposals.

And while Burton showed glimpses of his immense composure down back and James Sicily did something nice things up forward, they lacked partners in crime.

The result was a team trying to play in a similar manner to the glory days, but simply lacking the tools to do so.

"It does look like they're still persevering with those uncontested marks,” Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos said during Fox Footy's coverage.

"But they're just incapable of doing it now. They appear to still be kicking the ball around, but they've had some horrendous turnovers.”

Having dominated the last decade, the next 10 years could look very strange for a few Hawthorn supporters that have known no different.

And while they would probably do it all over again given the results such a bold list strategy yielded, returning to those glory days could take some time.

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