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Hawthorn face big calls to get out of limbo and back on top

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Today, there’s considerable sound and fury surrounding Hawthorn skipper Ben Stratton and the pinch test that he inflicted upon Orazio Fantasia.

While the pinching story holds significant subplots, it should not obscure the major upshot from Friday night: that the Hawks are miles from contention, long odds to play finals and face a series of imminent club-defining calls.

Calls to make: Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.Credit:AAP

The most worrisome number from the Essendon defeat wasn’t the lack of marks inside forward 50. It was this sobering fact: That Hawthorn’s 22 against Essendon was ranked first in the AFL for age (26.8 years) this round and that they’re also first for average age in the season to date (26.25 years, just ahead of Collingwood and Adelaide), with a team that has won five and lost seven.

Demographically, the Hawks should be contending. Last year’s fifth placing – fourth after the home-and-away games – was a tremendous achievement given the talent, but an illusory one.

As Alastair Clarkson calmly acknowledged some weeks ago, this is a middle-of-the-road team.
The more worrisome possibility is that it’s a team at the end of the road.

Hawthorn, much like Sydney, have been caught by a socialised system that was designed to bring superpowers to heel. The Hawks’ attempts to defy gravity through judicious trading – the Tom Scully steal, the Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara deals and the audacious Chad Wingard gamble – has landed them in a kind of mid-table limbo.

The Hawks went hard to secure Chad Wingard from Port Adelaide.Credit:AAP

The absence of Tom Mitchell, obviously, exacerbated their........

© The Age