Following a few exciting acquisitions during the off-season, competition for spots in Hawthorn's forward line are looking fierce ahead of the club's 2024 campaign. 

It comes after the Hawks secured Gold Coast key forward Mabior Chol, welcomed back Jack Gunston after a season at Brisbane, and nabbed Collingwood premiership player Jack Ginnivan during last year's trade period. 

Hawthorn's off-season overhaul was further strengthened when the club selected live wire small forward Nick Watson with Pick 5 at the draft in November.

While there has been some changes on the field, there have also been some off it. 

After spending his first two seasons as the club's contest coach, assistant Adrian Hickmott is now overseeing the forwards for the first time.

Speaking for the first time since his positional switch, Hickmott said he was enjoying the new role. 

"I'm finding it exciting, they're a good bunch of players to work with," he added. 

"Gunston, Luke Breust, Mitch Lewis and Dylan Moore, those experienced players are definitely helping me through the system with their knowledge of how to work a forward line and the moving patterns."

New recruit Chol has been partnering with star key forward Mitch Lewis who together will look to provide a dynamic target between the arcs come season 2024. 

After completing a strong training block in the last month following an injury riddled year, Lewis will be looking to build on his 73 goals from 30 games across his last two seasons. 

Alongside the duo is veteran Gunston who has made a seamless return, relishing the opportunity to work alongside with close friend and three-time premiership teammate Breust once again. 

"Those key forwards have got good football smarts, just in the way they see each other on the ground - they led really well, they communicate with their eyes and hands," Hickmott explained.

"You've got Chol who is big and wide, Lewis is a real hard worker who reads the play really well, and then Gunston who is smart and tricky.

"In their own right they've got their own little attributes that make them special players.

"Gunners and Breust connect really well, the way they teach others around them is first-class.

"I've been watching Gunston show our draftee Calsher Dear some vision on the tape from training, just the way he took his time to go through it, I could see him put his mind into Calsher's mind as a young kid.

"He has been teaching him about leading patterns - when to lead and when not to, I sat there and listened to it the other day and it was pretty special."


With just over a month between now and the club's season opener against Essendon on Saturday 16 March, Hawthorn showcased its new-look attack during a match simulation at pre-season camp on Wednesday.

After kicking 74 goals across his 75 career games to date, Co-vice Captain Dylan Moore has established himself as an elite half-forward in the past couple of seasons and is set to play an important role again this year.

Connor Macdonald has also settled in well playing predominantly across half-forward, surging to 41 games after being selected at Pick 26 in the 2021 national draft.

Another small forward trio - Sam Butler, Jack O'Sullivan and Josh Bennetts - are also right in the mix, impressing so far on the track this pre-season. 

"When we train now, we do drills with six forwards and rotate them in and out from the bench," Hickmott added. 

"At times we'll have one tall and five smalls and those five smalls are dynamic, the pressure they put on the ball is impressive.

"Jack Ginnivan is a good, young, smart footballer who loves a goal... then there is Nick Watson, you can't get the ball out of his hand, he's having shots on goal all the time.

"Along with Breust, Moore and Macdonald, it will be a fun time come selection, there's no doubt about that."

After seven seasons as one of the most reliable in the Hawks backline, the coaches have also been trialling gun defender Blake Hardwick in attack across the pre-season.

Hickmott said Hardwick has all the tools to potentially add a defensive dynamic to the Hawks forward line in 2024.

"We were in a drill the other day and he spoiled the ball rather than trying to mark it, but he's going well," Hickmott laughed. 

"In his younger years he played up forward a bit, so it's just starting to come back to him.

"He's a tough, hard player - we love his pressure, he's got great footy smarts and works in well with the guys.

"Him and Breust sit down and re-watch vision together, he'll come along well."

After making his AFL debut last year, developing ruck Max Ramsden has also been spending some time with the forwards this pre-season. 

A mid-season pick from 2022, Ramsden performed strongly both as a solo ruck and a ruck-forward with the Box Hill Hawks throughout 2023, showcasing his adaptability to his game.

Hickmott said it was important that the youngster finds the right mix between the two. 

"He's growing, I think he's put on eight kilograms over the last pre-season," Hickmott added.

"His ruck work with David Hale is also going really well, but getting that mix right coming forward and that cohesion is really important.

"We've got to be careful not to give him too much, but at the moment he is handling it well."

Despite being on the sidelines, Chad Wingard has still been an active contributor among the forward group.

While the 30-year-old isn't expected to return until mid-season as he recovers from an achilles injury, Hickmott said his influence was still important. 

"He's super keen, he's looking to help all the time," Hickmott said. 

"He works hard on his forward line craft and the little movement patterns that we do, he watches vision with the guys and speaks up at our line meetings.

"Even though he is doing his rehabilitation, he is always looking across at training to make sure that the little part he is teaching is going the right way.

"He'll be good for us when he gets back."