Liam Shiels has brushed aside suggestions that Hawthorn’s younger players lack the firepower necessary to perform at AFL level.
Speaking on SEN radio on Tuesday, Shiels adamantly defended his younger teammates, declaring there is plenty of depth in Hawthorn’s ranks.
“I think we’ve got a number of different youngsters coming through.
“Kade Stewart has had a fantastic JLT campaign. He’s kicked goals, been hard at the footy and laid plenty of tackles, so he’s definitely a guy to look out for.
“We saw what [Ryan Burton] is capable of late last year so he’s another exciting player for us who can play both ends of the ground.”
In 2016, Hawthorn showcased seven debutants in Stewart, Burton, Marc Pittonet, Kieran Lovell, Kaiden Brand, Blake Hardwick and Kurt Heatherley.
Brand fit seamlessly into the Hawks’ backline, and managed 11 games with a winning record of 72 percent.
2015 debutants James Sicily and Daniel Howe have played 25 and 15 games respectively, demonstrating the depth of young talent on the Hawks’ playing list.
Sicily has already become a force in front of goal, collecting his biggest bag of five in Round 16 against North Melbourne and kicking the match winner in Round 3 against Western Bulldogs.
Shiels has also been impressed by the crop of 2016 draftees, particularly pick 74 Harry Morrison and Irish rookie Conor Nash, who have made significant progress since arriving at the club in late November.
“Harry Morrison played a quarter on the weekend and did some really good things.
“Conor Nash didn’t get on until late in the last quarter against Port Adelaide, but what [he and Morrison] did was pleasing.”
“There are definitely some pretty exciting youngsters coming through.”
At 23 years of age, Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara’s names could also be thrown into the conversation on Hawthorn’s young talent, with Shiels predicting big things for the two boom recruits.
“We know what they’re capable of on the footy field, they’re both tough, hard nuts.
“I think it will be great for our contested footy getting two bulls like that in and around the stoppages like we’ve seen in the two practise matches that they’ve played.
They’re both great characters with leadership qualities in them, so no doubt we’ll probably see them push into leadership groups and things like that in the future.”