When you’ve just won back-to-back premierships, who do you draft to keep your playing list full of young talent?
Meet Dan Howe, Teia Miles, and Marc Pittonet. While Howe and Pittonet made their debuts for Hawthorn in the club’s 13-point NAB Challenge loss to North Melbourne last Sunday, it’s fair to say the trio has largely flown under the radar this pre-season.
Marc Pittonet has replaced Sam Grimley in the squad for Sunday's NAB Challenge AGAINST North Melbourne at Shepparton. #brownandgold
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) March 6, 2015
Howe, a modern-day swingman at 191cm tall, has played in a variety of positions from across half-back, key position forward, and even on the wing. He was taken as the Hawks’ first selection in the draft at pick 31.
Miles is the smallest of the bunch at 180cm; the midfielder was taken with pick 49 after coming off a Best and Fairest-winning season at the Geelong Falcons.
“You can’t go past Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and those sorts of guys [for role models] ” – dan howe
And just one selection behind Miles at pick 50 was 202cm Marc Pittonet – the first genuine ruckman picked in the 2014 draft pool.
“I played with both Teia Miles and Marc Pittonet before we got drafted so that made coming to the club a bit easier,” Howe told AFLPlayers.com.au earlier this year.
“I went to school with Marc and played Vic Country with Teia, so it was good to know someone at the club. It made the transition easier.”
But Miles and Pittonet admit to knowing very little of each other before getting drafted. Selected consecutively at picks 49 and 50, they may become more acquainted as a ruckman and rover combination in the VFL before attempting to break into a deep Hawthorn line-up.
While Miles has little recollection of his two-metre teammate in the junior leagues, Pittonet has memories of the lightly-framed midfielder dominating a TAC Cup match.
“I didn’t know who Miles was until the second last round of the TAC Cup season where we lost our first game in around 10 weeks to the Geelong Falcons by a point. He was best on ground,” Pittonet recalled.
“I came out of that game thinking ‘who is this Miles kid?’ He absolutely destroyed us. Between him and Paddy McCartin, they beat us. From there I kept an eye on him through the finals and he just strikes me as a good player.”
Howe, 19, was overlooked in the 2013 draft after injury and school commitments disrupted his season, but explains how he was able to gain the Hawks’ interest with a strong 2014 campaign.
“It was disappointing to miss out on the draft [in 2013]. I was away at school and had to share the load between school footy and TAC Cup so I couldn’t feature in every game.
“But I put all my focus on footy last year and having a full year at the Murray Bushrangers made a huge difference. A full year in the system, training every week and knowing the coaches and players pretty well is probably what helped me most.”
“I came out of that game thinking ‘who is this Miles kid?’ He absolutely destroyed us” – Marc Pittonet
Howe’s first pre-season has been challenging, but the club has allowed time for him to adapt to the regime following some small injury concerns.
“I’ve got a bit of knee tendonitis at the moment so haven’t been doing everything – which has made it a bit easier, but it’s still been pretty taxing.”
Pittonet said the club has managed his larger frame well and given his body time to recover from the grueling sessions.
“I’m only doing 60-70 percent of training, so not everything at the moment.
“I’ve had a couple of niggles, so early on I didn’t do much, but I’m back into full training now. The niggles are just from so much load on the body and it’s such a step up from Under 18s to trying to do a senior pre-season, which is always going to be hard when they’re the back-to-back premiers.
“Any time I have a niggle they manage me really carefully; they’ve been smart with me.”
Thankfully, Miles is yet to have any concerns on the training track.
“I haven’t missed a beat yet and I’ve done most of the pre-season. I’m still feeling pretty good and we always make sure we get our rehab done, so everything is going really well at the moment,” Miles said.
Pittonet believes Miles already fits in with the senior group.
“Seeing Miles in training now, he just looks like everyone else,” the ruckman said.
“You wouldn’t pick him as a first-year or younger player because he looks just like any other senior player, which says something given the calibre of Hawthorn.”
Hawthorn has a wealth of experienced senior players to teach the next generation of young Hawks – the trio of draftees is already benefiting from the senior group’s influence.
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) December 14, 2014
“They’ve all been really good,” Howe said.
“You can’t go past Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and those sorts of guys. They work really hard and have great leadership qualities.”
Miles added, “Isaac Smith has been very good for me. He took me in for the first two weeks at the club and took me out for dinner with all the boys, which helped me get to know everyone. And I’ve done a fair bit of pre-season with Sam Mitchell – we’ve done a few boxing sessions together and I’ve been following him around the track just to get the best insight into how he goes about it.”
“Jordan Lewis has really stood out for me,” Pittonet said.
“He welcomed me on the first day and gives me advice during all the training sessions – if I don’t know what I’m doing I’ll often go to him.”