Five-time premiership player Dermott Brereton says Alastair Clarkson’s draw card has already been used, and he is unsure if Hawthorn can make a return to the finals in 2018.

The Hawks remain a mystery heading into the new campaign, as they aim to get back into September, after missing the postseason for the first time since 2009 last year.

Brereton concedes it’s almost impossible to get a read on his former side, but reckons one of Clarkson’s tricks has already been used, with success, at the backend of the previous campaign.

He is also uncertain if the return of numerous mainstays will yield positive results.

“The thing he (Clarkson) had up his sleeve has already been done last year with Jack Gunston and James Sicily back, and Will Langford as a pressure forward, even though he couldn’t kick the ball through the goals,” Brereton told 1116 SEN.

“That worked really well for them.

“This is a cop out, but I think the two teams that are the hardest to get a read on for 2018 are Hawthorn and Collingwood.

“The Hawks, after the halfway mark last season, were about the third best performed team.

“That was when they lost Ben Stratton, James Frawley, Cyril Rioli, and they’ve had a host of other players, and of course Jaeger O'Meara.

“They lost all those players, they had 18 operations throughout the season, and they were still the third best performed team after the halfway mark.

“Counteracting that was the fact they weren’t very good when they had those good players in.

“Will they be better with those champion players coming back? I can’t see them dramatically improving.”

Gunston has already put on the public record he will be returning to the forward half of the ground this season, with the slew of returns forcing positional changes once again.

Another unknown element for the Hawks will be O’Meara’s health and form.

The often-injured former Sun showcased his talents at the end of 2017, with strong performances against Carlton and the Western Bulldogs in the season’s final two rounds.

Brereton is of the notion O’Meara could hold the key to Hawthorn’s fortunes, and the fact he is playing in their intra-club match tonight is a shining light in relation to his knees.

“There is always concern because of that injury history,” he said.

“It is a worry about how many games he has been put on the field.

“It’s a concern but if someone is really injured, and they’re battling away, as per the history of O‘Meara, you don’t play them in intra-club games.

“So you have to take it on face value that things are going alright. You just have your fingers crossed the boy is able to get through.”

The Hawks begin their 2018 campaign against Collingwood on Saturday March 24 at the MCG.

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