Hawthorn champion Sam Mitchell is set to run out for game No. 300 against the Tigers on Sunday – the team he made his debut against in Round 5, 2002.
Overlooked in two national drafts, Mitchell played a year at Box Hill in the VFL before the Hawks selected him in the 2001 draft behind eventual premiership teammates Luke Hodge, Rick Ladson and Campbell Brown.
From winning a Liston Trophy and a Rising Star award in his first couple of seasons to becoming an accomplished four-time Peter Crimmins Medallist and premiership player, Mitchell’s story is one of persistence and determination.
Here’s how teammates Luke Hodge and Shaun Burgoyne reflect on Mitchell’s career and provide an insight into what the Hawks’ seventh 300-game player is like away from the field.
When he got drafted, he was touted as slow and short (which he still is) but he’s worked on his game with his left and right foot, agility and his understanding of the game. He always wants to get better.
The other thing that stands out is how courageous he is. He’s played for 15 years at the source where he is getting hit from everywhere but he always gets back up. He just accepts that he’s going to get beaten from pillar to post every week and the thing we admire about him the most is his competitiveness.
We came from different places – he’s a city boy and I’m a country boy – but we spent a lot of time together when he was captain and he helped me develop as a leader as well.
He’s very approachable and has so much knowledge about the game and life in general.
He’s very annoying too. If there’s going to be someone pulling a prank on someone he’ll be behind it, whether he teases someone else to do it or does it himself. But I think that’s why he enjoys the football club so much because he can live out his youth with the younger guys.
You need to have fun at the football club when you’ve been around for so long and he definitely has fun stirring up other blokes.
He’s right up there with Hawthorn’s greats and football greats as well. I think he’s won four best and fairests, played in four premierships and done it consistently for 15 years.
It’s an unbelievable achievement to get to 300 games and just shows the level of professionalism that he has in getting himself right to play each week.
He’s a very smart player and has been able to look after himself.
You always look at other players across the league who have been able to play for a number of years and try and pinch little things here and there from them. Having one of those as your teammate, you get to see firsthand how they prepare in the change rooms, when travelling interstate and throughout the pre-season.
I’m lucky that I have Mitch four lockers down from me and see him every day.
Before I got to the club, I had always admired him from afar. When I arrived at Hawthorn, I was on crutches and he was the captain. He was very comforting and reminded me that there was no pressure to rush back and I just needed to get the rehab right, which goes to show the respect he has for his teammates.
He was very vocal and put his thoughts forward and I was just trying to earn his respect early on. He’s also a very smart person on and off the field – he’s almost like a coach sitting in the change rooms next to you at times.
He can get a bit annoying around the club. He likes to play soccer with the kids and kicking balls at heads all the time – he’s a little pest like that.
He’s the ring leader of that crew who play soccer before they warm up and he’s always got a ball in his hands, but if he gets the opportunity he’ll kick it at the back of your head.