Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson before the AFL qualifying final against the Cats last weekend.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson before the AFL qualifying final against the Cats last weekend. JULIAN SMITH

Clarkson like a kid in a candy store with recruits

ALASTAIR Clarkson must have had to stop himself doing cartwheels out on to the Ricoh Centre oval at Waverley for his press conference yesterday.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you would've heard by now that the kid Tim Watson once said could go on to become the greatest midfielder of all-time, Jaeger O'Meara, wanted to wear the brown and gold, and not just as part of Mad Monday celebrations on the Gold Coast.

He is now likely to join Tom Mitchell, from Sydney, and Ty Vickery, from Richmond, at the Hawks next season, following that well-worn path of recruits from rival outfits.

At times feeling like a kid in a candy store, tucking into opposition lists hasn't won Clarkson or the Hawks any fans over the years, especially when it has helped them to three successive flags.

And five days after the majority of the footy world was left rejoicing at what was perceived as the Hawks' imminent demise after four years at the top of the tree, they let out a collective groan.

It had sent social media into meltdown, the screams of "there's your equalisation for ya, AFL!” deafening.

Clarkson and his Hawks won't give two hoots though. They see it as every club for itself.

And despite this being the age of drafts and salary caps, they have become the ultimate hunter-gatherers - of players and premierships.

With no top 10 pick available to them since No.6 in 2006 (used on Mitch Thorp), they've had to rely on shrewd drafting and even shrewder trading - not to mention an environment that players want to be a part of.

Clarkson has instilled an "all for one, one for all” culture at Hawthorn, which has translated into players being willing to take pay cuts to be a part of it. It's believed O'Meara won't be getting the money at Hawthorn that he could have gotten if he had stayed with the Suns or gone to Essendon.

Hawthorn hasn't been to every possible recruits' liking - Shane Mumford, Jake Carlisle and Patrick Dangerfield have all turned their nose up at it in recent seasons.

But after missing "Danger”, the Hawks were always going to come after another quality onballer, and come hard, with Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Shaun Burgoyne and Jordan Lewis all now in the twilight of their careers.

Even with that quartet, the Hawks have slipped alarmingly with their ability to win the hard ball. After being beaten 170-118 in contested disposals last week against Geelong, they now rank 18th in that area this season, below even the undermanned Bombers.

O'Meara and Tom Mitchell are both midfield beasts, O'Meara racking up 233 contested disposals in 2014 and Mitchell 271 in 2016. The No.1 Hawk this year is Lewis (219).

But, while inwardly Clarkson would be brimming at the prospect of having O'Meara and co, he made it clear yesterday ahead of tonight's cut-throat semi-final against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG that he was handballing any questions to his list manager Graeme Wright about O'Meara, "and we best leave it to that”.

He's not worried about 2017 and beyond right now, rather the Hawks' bid to stay in contention for the 2016 flag by beating what he describes as a "ferocious” Bulldogs side - and one that will have just about every neutral supporter behind them.

As much as they want to see the long-suffering Dogs achieve success, fans also want to see the Hawks suffer ... at least before they restock over the summer.

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