Harry Cunningham arrived at Sydney at the end of 2011 — the same year as 2018 Leigh Matthew Trophy winner Tom Mitchell. The pair formed a close friendship and Cunningham shares a bit about the Hawthorn ball-magnet. Since coming to Hawthorn at the end of 2016, Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara have been inseparable and now live with one another, and along with Cunningham, O’Meara shares his experiences, in an exclusive AFLPlayers.com.au column.
I never had any doubt Tom Mitchell would be a star.
Even before we were drafted to the Swans at the end of 2011, there were big raps on him, which obviously turned out to be true.
It’s hard not to notice his work ethic. Everyone in the AFL system works hard but Tom is on another level. If you watch him closely on game day, he’s always moving at a higher intensity than just jogging and he’ll continually get from one contest to the next.
He’s worked bloody hard from day one.
As we went into our second years in the system, we moved in together and remained housemates for five years.
He was professional with what he did away from the field to get himself in that physical condition to work his butt off each weekend. The little things like going for a swim every single day on his own time is what Tommy did to ensure he could perform at his best.
He covers the ground so well and has a smart footy brain. He’s been involved in the sport for a long time now with his old man playing more than 200 games so he’s lived and breathed it his whole life.
Those times living together were a lot of fun. As a housemate, Tommy was great company but his cooking skills weren’t too flash — luckily, he made up for it with the cleaning!
Tommy’s great to have a laugh with. He plays the straight bat well in the media but he’s actually a really funny man.
He’s a down to earth and genuine person. He’s very humble, caring and has time for everyone. We’ve had some great memories traveling and living together. Tommy is pretty hard not to like.
He can be quite witty at times and he doesn’t mind a practical joke when there are a few people on board and if the joke isn’t directed at him — I guess that’s not dissimilar to the rest of us.
Tommy is academically smart but, to put it bluntly, he has no street smarts whatsoever so I’ve had to teach him a few things along the way because I’m probably the opposite. We work well together in that sense.
On the field, he’s never had trouble finding the footy. I still remember watching his first game from the SCG grandstand when he came on as the sub after half-time and still managed to collect 18 touches and kick a goal.
I’ve seen some pretty special numbers from him, including a game in the reserves a couple of years ago in Sydney, where he had the footy 64 times and kicked four goals.
I guess some things never change.
He’s had a fantastic season and it was hard not to vote for someone like Tommy for MVP Award. He’s had such a consistent year — it’s not like he’s had one or two games of 40 or more touches — he’s backed it up every week.
He seems to have gone to another level in 2018 and he was already at a high standard! He also gets his eight to 10 tackles most weeks and he’s been able to kick a few goals this year as well, which has added another string to his bow.
There wouldn’t be a more deserving recipient of the Leigh Matthews Trophy than Tom Mitchell.
I’d been looking for a place to buy in Melbourne, so I thought I’d move in with Tom in the meantime. I’ve been there for 10 months now and am still looking to buy. I think I’ll stick around for a little while longer.
I first met Tom in the Under-18s. Tom lived in WA for a bit when his old man was coaching at Fremantle so I actually played a bit of footy with Tom.
He was injured during the Under-18 Championships but we played a couple of games together. We stayed in contact when he was at Sydney and I was at the Suns so we were both stoked when we ended up at the Hawks.
You could tell he was always going to be a player. He just works so hard and was almost obsessed in getting better, which continues to show to this very day. He wants to be the best version of himself, drives high standards and wants everyone else to improve as well.
You could tell that he was destined for greatness.
Tommy was always really hardworking. He has this ability to read the play before anyone else on the field. He always seems to be a step ahead. His ability to win the ball in a five-metre bubble is something I haven’t seen before. But the main thing is how hard he works.
He’s just that one split second quicker to dive on the ball, have that turn of speed, get to the ball and dish out a handball. He does a lot of vision reviewing and goes through stuff with the coaches during the week about his opponent and the opposition.
He’s also a great lad. He doesn’t mind having a beer, although he hasn’t had much this season, so he’s made that sacrifice which is paying off for him.
He loves a laugh and jokes around all the time. He watches a fair bit of Netflix and has settled down quite a bit now that he has his girlfriend, who’s also a great person as well.
He’s just a normal 25-year-old, who likes to have a laugh and the occasional beer. He doesn’t take life too seriously.
We went to Europe together with a couple of Hawks boys at the end of last year and were in Rome, which Tom thought was the city of love, obviously it’s Paris, so he doesn’t have much of an idea about different parts of the world.
James Sicily, Ryan Burton, Taylor Duryea and myself basically had to baby him through the whole trip. That was pretty funny.
But on the field, Tommy’s as reliable as they come. In tight games, especially the recent ones as well, he’ll put his head in the hole and sacrifice his body for the good of the team. You want guys like Tommy alongside you when there’s five minutes to go in a close one.