By Luke Voogt
Last year’s Coleman Medallist Tom Hawkins and star recruit Jeremy Cameron have begun devising plans to terrorise opposition backlines in 2021.
“We’ve caught up a couple of times, spoken on the phone,” Hawkins said of Cameron, the leading goal kicker in 2019.
“We trained together yesterday as a line group and we’ll continue to work as a whole on our patterns and synergy together.
“I’m really excited to work with not only Jeremy but Shaun [Higgins] and Isaac [Smith] as well – some players that have had outstanding careers and have still got a lot to offer.”
But Hawkins was circumspect on whether he or Cameron would spend the most time deep in a forward line likely to cause headaches for opposing backmen.
The two forwards would play both in the goal square and up the ground “depending on who we play and how we’re tracking”, he said.
“I quite enjoy playing up the ground as Jeremy does. We’re both very different players. He’s a lot more agile and leaner than what I am.
“At the same time he’s really powerful – we did some small drilling yesterday and that probably surprised me a bit.”
Hawkins reckoned Esava Ratugolea would play a “big part” in the Cats success despite a mediocre 2020 and a forward line packed with stars.
“I think we’ll see him a bit in the ruck,” he said.
“He’s a really good asset for us … players that can play dual roles are really important.
“Esava will keep developing, he’s young, he’s raw, he’s come into football quite late so he’s still got a lot to learn.”
Hawkins said veteran recruits Higgins and Smith brought a “wealth of experience” and flexibility to the side.
Both had the ability to provide run off half-back, kick goals or play across the midfield, he said.
Hawkins said he had “loved” getting back into his 15th pre-season training as the Cats prepare for their first Community Series game against Essendon at home on February 18.
“It’s going to race around pretty quickly so I’m excited about that,” he said.
“Personally I’ve had a great break, I felt like we needed a bit of extra time after what was a pretty challenging year being away from home for so long.
“I’ve probably been a bit slower this year in getting back into it – I felt like I personally needed a bit longer time to just mentally refresh before I started going again.”
The big Cat said conditioning staff were happy with the players’ fitness upon their return and their shuttle test results.
“If we can get enough footy in over the next five or six weeks I think we’ll be really well prepared for our first game,” he said.
Hawkins also vowed to prepare for the unknown and “do whatever it takes” to complete the season after COVID-19 turned 2020 upside down.
He admitted the Cats faced “external pressure” for a flag with the club securing Cameron after falling just one half of football short of a premiership last year.
“I find [the grand final] really hard to watch or even think about it,” he said.
“I know within myself of a few certain ways that we could have played better. When the time’s right we’ll reflect on that.”
But he said the Cats would embrace the challenge “in front of us” and that each player would compete weekly for a spot in the team.
“The beauty of our list is we’re going to have a lot of depth,” he said.
“We’re grateful as players for the club putting us in that position again. We’ve got a really mature group and we’ll just attack the season like we did last year.”