Hawthorn try to plug holes with Hartigan

With Hawthorn staring down a hard rebuild as success catches up with them, they’ve seen a number of their numerous over-30 players depart this off-season. The exodus includes defenders Ben Stratton and Danny Frawley, as well as the return to Ireland of Conor Glass and a mid-August ACL injury ruling James Sicily out for next season.

The Hawks are clearly not willing to fully commit to a very green backline, and would prefer a couple of more mature heads around. As such, they have nabbed an experienced (if unspectacular) defender from fellow rebuilding team Adelaide, in Kyle Hartigan.

This isn’t really Hawthorn opting out of a rebuild. It’s the Hawks delineating how far they’re willing to go in the pace and scope of regeneration, by bringing one mature defender back in where three have left forever and a fourth won’t be playing next season.

Hartigan will be 29 years old next season and according to HPN’s PAPLEY outlook, projects to provide basically what the departed Frawley or Stratton brought to the table, with maybe more intercept marking, for at least a couple of years.

The Hawks defensive stocks look threadbare.

Of the 11 players to have positive defensive marginal Player Approximate Value in 2020 for Hawthorn (ie, they have more defensive per game value than the average player in the league), there are a lot of question marks.

On top of the absences for 2021, Greaves, Hartley and Jiath only played a handful of games this year, creating uncertainty about their level of output going forward.

Also notable is that few of the better Hawthorn defenders provided much outside of defence, but rather served mostly as fairly pure defenders. The ACL injury to James Sicily, clearly the best footballer in Hawthorn’s backline, leaves a gaping hole.

Hartigan was Adelaide’s best interceptor in 2020. He sat 30th in the league per game, and ranked above all Hawks except Sicily and Frost. He provides a reliable known quantity for Hawthorn, even if nowhere near being a replacement for what Sicily brought.

Hartigan projects to play at his current AFL-standard level for two to three seasons but with some uncertainty around his longevity.

The fourth round pick he’s been traded for will probably be in the late 50s or early 60s, still marginally useful. As with other trades to date this year, the bet is a modest one.

Verdict: Unbalanced but low stakes trade.

Note: This post is part of a series of posts using a valuation method called Player Approximate Value (PAV) to evaluate trades for fairness and balance. Readers can explore these values with tools such as 5-year player value projection charts and a Salary Prediction tool as well as the HPN Trade Calculator to evaluate potential trades.

Elsewhere, read much more about the method and theory behind PAVExpressing the value of players and picks in terms of expected future PAV provides a common currency for comparing them in trades and other movements. Players are projected using PAPLEY, a method to derive expected future PAVs.

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