We're about to find out how deep Hawthorn's list is

Written by Brandon Marlow (@SauceMarlow) on 08 April 2017   

It's no secret that Hawthorn's top tier players are starting to get on in years.

Players like Josh Gibson, Grant Birchall, Shaun Burgoyne, Luke Hodge and Jarryd Roughead have been incredible servants to the club and have helped the club to a period of success, unlikely to be repeated again soon.

However, all of these players are also beginning to enter, or are in the twilight of their career.

The Hawks are well and truly aware of this, as they gave away club legends Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis for next to nothing to try and accelerate the development of their younger talent. 

The future of the club will be built around new recruits Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara, but it's the home-grown youngsters who will be thrown into the fire over the coming months and be issued the challenge of proving they're good enough to hold their own in the AFL. 

Ryan Burton is one of these young players who has already stepped up in 2017. 

Burton, who played 4 games in 2016 showed a huge improvement in his first game for the season after missing the opening round.

He was awarded the NAB Rising Star nomination for round two after having 26 disposals (12 contested), 11 intercept possessions, nine marks and four tackles off half-back.

It's very early days, but Burton looks like he could be a solid replacement for Burgoyne or Birchall across the back-flank.

While Birchall and Burgoyne are great distributors, when it comes to actual defending they aren't the greatest, but this is an area where Burton excels.

Burton stands at 191cm, which combined with his speed means he can defend talls and smalls, while he's already shown a knack for cutting off forward entries.

Outside of Burton, the Hawks' depth remains a relative unknown.

Against Adelaide, Kade Stewart played his fourth career game while Teia Miles made his debut.

Stewart and Miles had solid games for players so early in their career, but most importantly they won a lot of their ball around the midfield and each won a clearance.

Alistair Clarkson is searching for the next era of Hawthorn midfielders to join Mitchell and O'Meara, and much of this season will function as an audition process.

Aside from Stewart and Miles, the Hawks also have Jonathan O'Rourke, Daniel Howe, and Kieran Lovell waiting in the wings who can all run through the midfield.

The promising thing is that with the debut of Miles, the Hawks have blooded every young midfielder on their list in the past two seasons.

Despite the valid criticism of being too old, Clarkson has been quietly introducing the next generation of talent.

It's now up to these players to take their opportunities with both hands and establish their spots at the club.

The second most concerning area in terms of depth is the Hawks' backline. 

Hawthorn's staring back six against the Crows had an average age of 28.6.

This average would be even higher if it wasn't for 20-year-old Burton. Outside of him, none of Hawthorn's best defenders are under the age of 28.

Last season both Kaiden Brand and Kurt Heatherly made their debuts, with Brand playing 11 games and holding his own against some of the competition's better forwards.

They also have Harry Morrison who was selected with pick 74 in last year's draft. 

Contrary to popular belief, Hawthorn does have a decent amount of young kids on their list.

However, it remains to be seen whether these kids will develop into the next crop of talent to make Hawthorn a top team again.

The next 20 games will go a long way in showing us what Hawthorn's future is.

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