Hawthorn to top up after AFL finals exit

Michael Ramsey
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson plans to tap the talent market after his team lost their final

Hawthorn will launch another aggressive off-season recruitment drive after bowing out of the AFL finals in straight sets for the second time in three years.

Friday night's 33-point semi-final loss to Melbourne means that for the first time since 2002, the preliminary finals will not feature at least one of Hawthorn, Geelong or Sydney.

But while the Cats and Swans face major questions about their game style and list management, the Hawks appear to be on the upward trajectory and far better placed than at the end of 2016 when they also lost two finals.

A lack of polish and composure proved fatal against the Demons with Hawthorn winning the inside-50 count but failing to convert their opportunities.

The Hawks lost key players Jaeger O'Meara and Ben Stratton to injury for the semi-final, while Grant Birchall has not played this season and Cyril Rioli has retired.

Coach Alastair Clarkson said the loss of the star quartet had "cut pretty deep", adding that the club would again look to lure established talent during the off-season.

"Hopefully there'll be some more growth organically within our list and we need to do whatever we can - either draft, trade or free agency - to bring in players that will improve our list," Clarkson said.

"There's some blue sky there but we've worked really hard as a club to give ourselves this chance and the exposure, particularly for our younger players, of getting two finals ... unfortunately we just weren't playing our best footy in the last month."

Clarkson noted that while Melbourne had saved their best football for the past month, the Hawks had peaked from round 18-21 despite going on to win their final two home-and-away games in what he described as "unconvincing" fashion.

The Hawks' top-four finish went well beyond what most pundits had expected from a club clearly in transition from its 2013-15 premiership dynasty.

But forward Jack Gunston, who booted 3.5 in an influential but wayward showing against Melbourne, dismissed suggestions the Hawks had overperformed, saying the club put a high internal rating on their young talent.

"Not at all," he told AAP.

"On paper, I think we were underdogs in most of the games in the second half of this year.

"Everyone's going to have kids coming through and their expectations are going to be low but we know we've got a great amount of talent on this list.

"It's disappointing now ... but we've got a great bunch of young kids coming through and no doubt over the summer we'll get more people into this footy club."