Three more signings: How Hawks are building a list from the ground up

HAWTHORN has signed former Saint Tamara Luke, VFLW Hawks defender Jenna Richardson and Casey Demons goalsneak Tahlia Fellows to its AFLW team.

Forward/ruck Luke, 34, is a long-time VFLW Hawk, having won a flag with the club in 2018 and captaining the side for two years.

She played six games for St Kilda between 2020 and 2021, battling an Achilles issue along the way.

Richardson is a mid-sized defender who has come through the Eastern Ranges pathway, and the 20-year-old has played two seasons with the Hawks.

Fellows has had a breakout season with Casey this year, the 22-year-old kicking 12 goals from 11 games and also starring for the U23 All-Stars against the NAB AFLW Academy.

Tahlia Fellows is swamped during the round nine VFLW match between Casey Demons and Geelong at Casey Fields on April 23, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hawthorn general manager of operations and AFLW Josh Vanderloo took through the Hawks' list creation strategy.

"We started this process at the end of last year. We wanted to profile what success looked like in the AFLW from a historical basis. In doing that – and this is where Bec (Goddard, senior coach)'s input has been great – we had a clear line of sight into how we wanted to play," Vanderloo said.

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"We also mapped out what are the key performance indicators across each position on the field, and then aligned the players across the competition that can perform those roles with success. 

"That gives you a long list of players to target, then you start the process in terms of dealing with player managers and working out what's realistic across the competition, and that turns into a short list. Then you progress with having discussions for those on your shortlist, and offer opportunities to come to your club."

Jenna Richardson in action during the R6 VFLW clash between Hawthorn and North Melbourne on March 26, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The quick turnaround between AFLW seasons after season seven was brought back to a late August start has made life trickier – but not impossible – for the four expansion sides (Essendon, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide and Sydney).

"I talked to everyone about how we were planning to be operational by September, in terms of pre-season, which has now been moved forward to June. A lot of the decisions that you need to make, they've now been fast-forwarded," Vanderloo said.

"Sure, it puts a lot of pressure on everyone, but the positive is giving everyone a short deadline means you can get things done quicker. For us as a club, ultimately we're just incredibly excited to be joining this competition finally. 

"You sharpen your focus. If you've got a clear list strategy and a clear plan around the program you want to build, you certainly shouldn't deviate from that, and we haven't. We're still executing our plans, the decisions just have to be made quicker and you have to back yourself in to make the right one."

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The Hawks have been in the hunt with a number of big-name players – most notably AFLW best and fairest Emily Bates – but haven't quite landed the marquee player they were after.

"The shorter turnaround time is meaning a lot of players are staying. Probably the No.1 reason we've heard back from players who don't want to move is they have a strong connection to their existing club," Vanderloo said.

"With the next season coming around so quickly, they're committed to achieving whatever they want to with their existing clubs."

However, the Hawks have recruited a number of experienced players known for their leadership both on and off the field, including Jess Duffin, Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Sarah Perkins.

Sarah Perkins is all smiles at Suns training on February 1, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

"If you look at who we've signed, it's obvious we've tried to wrap some experienced players – who have performed at a high level – around what is likely to be some really talented juniors who we draft in June. 

"With that group of VFLW-experienced players who have also performed really well at state-league level sitting in between that. 

"Any time you build a list, you need to get the profile right from an age, position and experience perspective, we think players like Tilly and Jess, even 'Perko' and Lou (Stephenson) coming in, will have a great influence over our young players and help drive our culture going forward."

Bec Goddard addresses her team during the R3 VFLW clash between Hawthorn and Essendon on March 13, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

With the new Kennedy Community Centre in Dingley still 18 months away, Vanderloo said the AFLW team will train across Bunjil Bagora (Waverley) and Box Hill Oval, while the club was still in discussions with the AFL about a playing location.

The club's AFL side does have a playing partnership with Tasmania, while St Kilda has hosted AFLW games at SkyBus Stadium in Frankston and Trevor Barker Oval in Sandringham when its ground was undergoing redevelopment.

Vanderloo said the Hawks would look take a healthy hand into the NAB AFLW Draft on June 29, and would not trade its first two selections (the top eight picks are reserved for expansion sides).