Hawthorn will roll out their youngest AFL team since 2005 when the Sam Mitchell era begins with a round-one game against North Melbourne.
The Hawks will field a team with an average age of less than 24 years at the MCG on Sunday.
You have to go back 17 years to Alastair Clarkson’s first season in charge, when premiership legends Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead were teenagers, to find a Hawthorn team this young.
It signals a true rebuild for the Hawks as Mitchell takes the reins from four-time premiership coach Clarkson.
“I want to see progress,” Mitchell said.
“We’re looking to be a little bit better than we were in the first couple of (pre-season) games.
“We know where we’re going, we know premiership teams aren’t built overnight.”
Hawthorn are excited about blooding their first pick in last year’s draft Josh Ward, who has been touted as a future captain at Waverley Park.
Important utility James Sicily and premiership star Jack Gunston are back after their 2021 seasons were wiped out by injuries.
But they will be without captain Ben McEvoy and veteran forward Luke Breust after the pair entered coronavirus protocols.
Midfielder Jaeger O’Meara will skipper the Hawks in McEvoy’s absence, while Ward and Connor Macdonald will debut.
Excitement is also building at North, with last year’s wooden spooners to see how No.1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis fits into AFL level.
Horne-Francis has impressed all at Arden St after being recruited from South Adelaide last November.
The 18-year-old has received comparisons to Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield and Brisbane Lions legend Michael Voss for his explosive power.