Alastair Clarkson can sleep easy after Tom Mitchell and recruit Jon Patton got through Hawthorn’s intra-club match on Friday night unscathed.
Exactly 400 days since Mitchell broke his left leg, the midfielder played three quarters with his knee strapped but stable.
He finished with nine kicks, 12 handballs and a couple of marks in wet n’ wild conditions at Waverley Park.
Watch every match of the Marsh Community Series AFL pre-season comp LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
The afternoon was somewhat soured by a potentially serious left shoulder injury to young defender Jacob Koschitzke in the third quarter.
The second-year player winced as he trudged to the bench and was greeted by trainers. It appeared to be a dislocation as a result of a strong tackle.
But Friday evening was primarily about Mitchell and Patton, who the Hawks hope will link up ample times in 2020.
Less than a week ago, Mitchell was donning a blue cap at training, meaning he was off-limits to prospective tacklers. Despite the rain and a heightened risk of lower limb injury, the Hawks backed their Brownlow Medal-winning on-baller — and the move paid off handsomely.
His performance (21 touches) was better classified as busy rather than dominant, but his output did not really matter for the Hawks. All they would have hoped for was a clean bill of health — and they got it. Job done.
After toiling in the first two quarters for the significantly weaker brown team, Mitchell swapped jumpers at halftime and joined more established teammates such as Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne and Liam Shiels in orange.
The same could be said for Patton, who elected to get himself right for 2020 rather than push for an unlikely Grand Final berth via the NEAFL late last year.
Patton’s three first-half goals complemented half-a-dozen strong marks in conditions not normally conducive for players of his ilk.
It had been 594 days between Patton’s last AFL game and Friday’s hitout, and he played as if he’d been waiting even longer for the opportunity.
It begun with a stab pass from James Sicily and continued all afternoon, regardless of delivery.
Jon Ceglar, James Worpel, Tom Scully and Smith were all in the best too.
Darren Minchington, who is gunning for the last spot on Hawthorn’s list via the pre-season supplemental avenue which closes on March 13, did some clever things throughout, as did Oliver Hanrahan.
Recruit Sam Frost played on the stronger side and is in the mix for a Round 1 club debut, while veteran Burgoyne spent large chunks of the match forward and snagged a goal.
Ben McEvoy continued his exploration as a key defender, holding forte behind the footy as Ceglar controlled the bulk of the ruck responsibilities.
Speaking post-game, Smith joked that Mitchell played OK for a “bloke who started in the twos”.
“It was a good confidence builder for him and a big step,” Smith said.
Jaeger O’Meara was rested but it’s understood the plan is for the slick midfielder to play most – if not all – the remaining pre-season matches.
Jack Gunston (ankle), Daniel Howe (foot), Jack Scrimshaw (managed) and Jarman Impey (knee) also sat out.
Gunston forecast some difficult decisions at match committee for Hawthorn’s season-opener against Brisbane in five weeks.
“Patton has fitted in really well,” Gunston said to the crowd at halftime.
“He has been good around the group. I’m sure there is going to be a few selection headaches for Round 1 which is a good problem to have.”
Smith added: “I don’t think he’s played a game in about two years and he was asking a few of us what to do.
“But he played well and it’s good to have the big fella back.”
Hawthorn’s next game is against St Kilda in six days at Moorabbin, followed by another clash against the Saints in Morwell. Their final hit-out before Round 1 is against Melbourne in Tasmania.