"They have been an embarrassment for years"
A bit harsh?
Looking at ladders for last 10 years, Hawks finished last once (as have Cairns and Townsville). Adelaide have finished last 3 times, Sydney twice and Brisbane twice. Sydney have also finished 2nd last 3 times.
Hawks have made semi finals 5 times and went on to GF twice.
So, yes, this year hasn't been the best for the Hawks. A huge spotlight was thrown on them with Lamelo. There is a lot of gossip around with his injury. and, as a fan, I would've loved to see him play more. But que sera sera.
It hurt when they lost their leading point scorer who came to the Hawks with less fanfare but has good credentials (Brooks). And who was starting to find his straps. Other injuries didn't help. The (eventual) replacements weren't the golden salvation people were hoping for (well, Hawks fans - I don't know how many other teams would've been happy if the Hawks were beating them all on their way to another finals series.).
And speaking about the results: there were several games where the Hawks were within a few points with minutes left. Sure, they had a couple of blowout losses but most clubs do. And they beat the league leaders. So despite their lowly position on the ladder, they have the ability to push other teams. And they "own" the current 3rd-placed team!).
Next year? Maybe a lot depends on how much Matt Flinn has learnt (if he is the Coach next year). I know from experience that it's a bit of a quantum leap going from Asst Coach to Head Coach, even just running subs (never mind plays ect. And nowhere did they prep me for how to deal with pretty tough, fiesty 15yo boys getting teary when they lost a close semi-final - the emotional investment!). And that was just juniors. So, if Matty can reflect and improve, that will help. Then there are the players...
As to why fans don't turn up? I dunno. I do turn up. And I pay for pretty good seats. People say it's expensive, especially for families. But a lot of that could be down to the monopoly WEC has in Wollongong. However, the WEC is well-located: near the beach, restaurants ect. But it is eccy. And public transport isn't good (which affects a potential population that is spread up and down the coast - I know quite a few people come up from Kiama and Nowra. Nowra is over an hour away and public transport is non-existent). And the food is eccy and their coffee sucks!