HAWTHORN added two first round picks to its rebuilding list at the 2023 AFL Draft, with one of them among a pair of father-son recruits. The newest Hawks offer a blend of attacking flair and firepower, aerial support in defence, and plenty of upside for the future. We recap the club’s haul.
>> UPDATED: Every Pick in the 2023 AFL Draft
1. Chad Wingard (re-listed)
3. Cooper Stephens (re-listed)
>> ANALYSIS: Big winners, bolters & sliders
Hawthorn was well poised to pick up one of the consensus 10-12 elite players at the top-end of this year’s draft, but what fell to the Hawks hinged on North Melbourne’s pair of top five selections. In the end, the man constantly linked with the brown and gold ended up in those colours – Nick Watson.
The diminutive forward is one of the most talked-about players in the crop. Size is the one question mark which lingered over his junior career, but the 170cm dynamo has more talent in his toes than many others he took the field against. It was never going to stop him being taken with an early pick.
While Watson spent time down back, on the wing and in midfield this year, he is a natural forward with a penchant for kicking mercurial goals from all situations. He’s eager to team up with new recruit Jack Ginnivan inside 50 having grown up a Collingwood supporter.
The next point of call for Hawthorn was to match a first round bid on father-son gun Will McCabe (son of Luke). North Melbourne, who ended up selecting a pair of talls, pulled the trigger at pick 19 for the 197cm defender out of Central District in South Australia.
Hawthorn duly matched in a range where McCabe was widely expected to garner interest. An athletic tall, he moves ridiculously well for his size and attacks the ball beautifully in the air, able to play at either end of the ground.
He continued to develop well after being named South Australia’s MVP in last year’s Under 16 National Championships, playing as an over-ager. He was made to put away his attacking flair in state colours this year in favour of more defensive roles on dangerous key forwards, and was solid despite injury niggles.
Matching the McCabe bid was Hawthorn’s final point of call on night one, before packaging him up with fellow South Australian defender Bodie Ryan (pick 46) on night two. The cousin of Collingwood’s Jakob joins his relative in Victoria and plays in a very similar way.
Ryan offers defensive versatility and toughness at 187cm, able to either lockdown or attack off both tall and small opponents. His aerial ability, along with McCabe, should take a load off skipper James Sicily down back in the long-term.
McCabe also had a link to Hawthorn’s final pick in the National Draft, being another father-son selection in Calsher Dear. The son of late former-Hawk Paul, Calsher is a competitive and mobile key forward who left his run to the draft for late in the year.
Dear made great strides while turning out for Sandringham, offering a flexible marking target inside 50 while also pinch-hitting through the ruck. He missed out on Vic Metro selection but followed through on his draft smokey status having played a key role in the Dragons’ premiership side.
Having pulled off a relatively straightforward National Draft intake, Hawthorn was left to re-list a couple of players through the pre-season and rookie drafts. Chad Wingard was taken in the former due to interest from other clubs, before Cooper Stephens was re-listed via the rookie intake.