At the mid-way point of Hawthorn’s 2018 VFLW season the Hawks were sitting in second position on the ladder and the team had only lost one game of their eight played.
They would only lose one further game for the year and would finish the season with a premiership.
At the half-way mark of the current season, the VFLW ladder paints a slightly different picture.
The Hawks are still in finals contention however they sit in sixth place on four wins and four losses.
VFLW coach Paddy Hill says there are many reasons for the change – player movement, the improving standard of the competition and his team’s ability to gel together and play four quarters.
One thing Hill is sure of, as the team continues to bond, the Hawks’ best football is still to come.
“I think definitely a transition period has been forced upon us and I’ve certainly noticed that the standard of the competition’s gone up,” said Hill.
“We’ve still got a high volume of senior players and really experienced players but you obviously lose some of your younger talent coming through via the draft last year so you have to build your squad back up again.”
From the 2018 premiership side the Hawks were successful in getting two of their youngest talents drafted to AFLW clubs – Mikala Cann (Collingwood) and Emerson Woods (Carlton). Ball magnet Julia Crockett-Grills was also picked up by Geelong.
Two senior players moved to Melbourne University, Tahni Nestor and Kimberley Ebb and two previous captains, Emma Mackie (2018 captain) and Mel Kuys (2017 captain) moved to align with their AFLW club St Kilda.
With the turnover of players, the door has opened for some of the club’s younger less experienced players.
Kara Henderson, Claire Dyett and Abbey Tanner are all players who were on the fringe of the VFLW team last year and are now regular members of the side.
Rosie Dillon is another. Dillon is arguably the most improved player at Hawthorn this season, averaging 17 disposals a game. She sits fifth in the entire competition for disposals.
“Rosie’s performance on the weekend, to get 24 possessions with 19 contested, eight tackles and nine clearances is a pretty solid game for anyone playing, especially against some quality players.
“She’s become that premium player, her growth and her belief in her own ability has just gone on leaps and bounds.”
The Hawks lost the first two games of the season when a number of core players were missing due to restrictions from their AFLW clubs.
Since their return the Hawks have won four of their last six games.
“If you look at the last six weeks in isolation, you know from when we really started getting our regular core players in the team, we’re four wins and two losses.
“We’ve lost two games by a total of 10 points.”
Whilst Hill has been impressed with his team’s efforts in recent weeks he is still chasing regular four-quarter efforts from his players, something that he believed his side last year only mastered towards the end of the 2018 season.
“I don’t think we’ve really put four quarters together (this year) other than the Footscray game.
“Against Essendon we played a pretty good half, Darebin again we probably played a pretty good second half where we kept them scoreless, but we haven’t quite put it altogether.
“It just takes time for them all to bond and we didn’t really get going last year, although we were getting the wins, we didn’t get going until the Footscray game and then it all started to click for us.
“So I think we’re a little bit behind where we were last year but there’s definitely reasons for it, it’s not to say that the effort from the girls hasn’t been great or the performances haven’t been great, it’s just a different environment that they’re trying to operate in at the moment.”
Hawthorn plays Carlton in Round 10 this weekend on Saturday morning at 11am at La Trobe University in Bundoora.