The incessant stress of the trade period was encapsulated in the final few hours. While there was nine days for deals to be completed, some of the game’s biggest names were forced to sit and wait until 2pm on Thursday, October 20.
Hawthorn were prominent during the trade period, using up every second to land highly-coveted recruit Jaeger O’Meara, and they also parted with Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis which sent shockwaves across the competition.
Bryce Gibbs failed to land at a new home, while Koby Stevens’ move to St Kilda, Brett Deledio’s trade to GWS and Caleb Marchbank’s move to Carlton were all confirmed after the trading clock expired.
As that commotion transpired, one man was fortunate enough sit back during the last week knowing that his future had been secured.
Tom Mitchell officially nominated the Hawks on October 10, and was traded just two days later.
“The Swans were pretty good about it — they understood my reasoning for wanting to change clubs,” Mitchell told Aflplayers.com.au.
“They were keen to help facilitate a trade that was fair for both clubs. It was handy for all parties that they were able to get the trade done early in the trade period.
“I see myself as very fortunate that my trade was able to get done very early. I’m sure that other players who were waiting to get their deals done were very stressed out. In the end, those things tend to work themselves out but for some players it can take a bit longer due to the circumstances.”
The decision to leave Sydney was an arduous call for the 23-year-old to make.
The Swans had just lost the 2016 Grand Final, and Mitchell had established himself as a vital cog of one of the most complete midfields in the competition, playing all 26 games and averaging a career-high 28 disposals.
“I’ve been at the Swans for five years, so it was an incredibly difficult decision to leave. I built some really strong relationships at the club which made the decision even harder,” Mitchell explained.
“It was something that I gave a lot of thought to. It felt straight away like a great opportunity because I was able to move back to Melbourne and to come to a great club like Hawthorn. In the end, I felt I needed a change and I’m happy to make a fresh start. It was appealing because they’re a club that has had a great culture and have enjoyed a sustained period of success — that’s something I want to be a part of.”
That new beginning will take place without the help of a couple of club legends.
A combined 571 games of experience left the Hawks in the way of Mitchell and Lewis, meaning that Hawthorn’s new Mitchell and former Sun O’Meara will have to carry the load of the seemingly new-look Hawks midfield.
“Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell are champions of the Hawthorn football club and the game, so I would have loved to have played alongside them and learned things off those guys but that’s not going to be the case.”
“I’m sure that a lot of guys will have to step up and fill the big shoes left by their departures. Obviously, they’ve still got a lot of experience with guys like Hodge, Birchall, Burgoyne and Gibson so I’m looking forward to learning off those guys and earning their respect.”
The Hawks’ struggles on the inside were well documented last season as they were forced to scrounge up wins despite lopsided contested ball counts.
Across their two post-season losses, the Hawks were -102 in contested possessions.
In fact, they won the count just twice in their 24 games in 2016. Clearly, that didn’t prove to be too much of a hindrance on their way to 17 regular-season victories, but it’s an area that needs addressing.
“I probably prefer the inside part of the game, so I think I can really help with my pressure and tackling,” Mitchell added.
“I’ll learn more about their system and the way they play through training and being at the club. Hopefully I can bring some of my strengths to the team and try and contribute in that way.”